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Estate Planning Tips to Protect Intellectual Property


Estate planning is a crucial process to ensure that your assets are distributed according to your wishes after passing. While many people focus on tangible assets like homes and investments, it’s equally important to consider the protection of intellectual property (IP). Intellectual property can include patents and trademarks and may hold substantial value. Just as you’d consult a financial advisor for managing your tangible assets, their counsel can be equally indispensable when it comes to protecting your precious intellectual property within an estate plan.

What Is Intellectual Property?

Intellectual property refers to the legal rights that protect intellectual creations like inventions, literary and artistic works, as well as symbols, names and commercial images.

An IP can be divided into four main categories:

  • Patents
  • Copyrights
  • Trademarks
  • Trade secrets

These intangible assets can hold substantial value, making them an essential consideration in estate planning.

What a Comprehensive Estate Plan Covers

A couple signs a batch of estate planning documents in front of their estate planning attorney.

A comprehensive estate plan is a vital financial and legal strategy that goes beyond just a will. It encompasses various elements to ensure that your wishes are carried out effectively, and that your loved ones are financially secure when you pass away.

First and foremost, a will is a cornerstone of any estate plan. It dictates how your assets should be distributed, who should be the guardian of your minor children – if you have any – and even who should take care of your pets.

In addition to a will, a comprehensive estate plan typically includes a power of attorney. This legal tool designates someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Furthermore, a healthcare proxy or medical power of attorney allows someone to make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so.

A living will is another crucial component. It outlines your preferences regarding end-of-life medical care. Lastly, trusts are often part of an estate plan. They can help minimize estate taxes and simplify the distribution of assets.

Intellectual Property and Your Estate Plan

Weaving the threads of intellectual property into your estate plan requires identification of all such assets, appraisal of their value, deciding their successor and articulating these details in your plan’s paperwork. 

These steps can seem straightforward. But adding intellectual property to your estate plan can also be complicated.

Partnering with a financial advisor or estate planning attorney can help clarify the process and guide you in determining your IP’s worth, its transfer avenues, potential income for your heirs and tax implications.

Tips for Protecting Your Intellectual Property

A woman makes a list of her assets, including intellectual property associated with a book she wrote.

You can actively contribute to safeguarding your intellectual property. The process involves documenting all such assets, ensuring they are legally protected, maintaining proper records and regularly reviewing and updating your estate plan as the intellectual property assets evolve. Here are five general steps to consider:

  • Identify your IP: Begin by identifying all your intellectual property assets. This may include books, music, software, inventions, or logos. Each type of IP has its unique considerations for estate planning.
  • Valuation: Determine the value of your IP. This step helps in assessing its significance in your estate and deciding how it should be distributed among heirs or beneficiaries.
  • Protect your legacy: Designate who will manage and protect your IP after your passing. This could be a trusted family member, friend, or a professional executor who understands IP laws.
  • Licensing and royalties: Decide how your IP will generate income for your estate. This might involve licensing agreements or setting up a trust to collect royalties.
  • Update your plan regularly: Just as with other assets, your IP and its value can change over time. Regularly review and update your estate plan to reflect any developments or changes in your IP portfolio.

Anticipating how changes in laws and regulations can impact your intellectual property rights and adjusting your estate plan accordingly also play crucial roles. While advice from professionals can be incredibly valuable, their input complements your conscience and efforts. 

Bottom Line

Incorporating intellectual property into your estate plan safeguards your creative and innovative legacy, ensuring it benefits your loved ones in the future. Consulting with legal experts who specialize in IP and estate planning can help you navigate the complexities of this process effectively.

Estate Planning Tips

  • Setting out to create an estate plan can feel like a daunting endeavor. However, there are simple steps you can take to ensure that the process runs smoothly. Here’s an estate planning checklist of five things you can do now to get started.
  • A financial advisor with estate planning expertise can be a valuable resource during this complicated process. Finding a financial advisor doesn’t have to be hard. SmartAsset’s free tool matches you with up to three vetted financial advisors who serve your area, and you can have a free introductory call with your advisor matches to decide which one you feel is right for you. If you’re ready to find an advisor who can help you achieve your financial goals, get started now.

Photo credit: © Lim, ©, © – Julia Amaral