What happens to your intellectual property after you die?

Published 05 Jul 2019

For many people, their creativity is their life’s work, soon to be their legacy after their death. In the instances of musicians and other artists, there’s plenty of material that’s often left unreleased at the time of their death. Here, we explore what happens to your intellectual property after your passing.

Who inherits intellectual property?

Intellectual property is known as personal knowledge, or ideas that are created by you. Assets that fall under the umbrella of intellectual property include:

  • Patents (unless sold) such as inventions and medicinal drugs.
  • Drawings and paintings.
  • Music.
  • Broadcasts.
  • Film.
  • Trade secrets, such as recipes.

When intellectual property is inherited, it basically gives the owner control over the assets. In some cases, this includes a person’s name and image. Especially where famous figures are involved, it’s key that any intellectual property is accounted for as part of estate planning.

How do I include intellectual property in my estate planning?

As with any asset, you’ll need to leave clear instructions in your Will for how you’d like your intellectual property to be handled after your death. A great way of doing this is by creating a trust for all of your creative assets to go into, where appointed trustees will handle and plan for the legacy of your craft. This is always best to plan for well in advance, with trusted parties such as family members, colleagues or managers.

Advance planning means that those in charge of handling your intellectual property will know exactly how you’d like it to be managed in future. This is essential, as the wording in your Will could be misinterpreted. If you haven’t left provisions for your intellectual property in your Will, it’s likely that the rights to the material will go to your spouse, followed by your children, parents and grandparents, as outlined in the Succession Act 2006 (NSW).

If you’re contesting a Will on the basis of controlling intellectual property, it’s vital to reach out to expert legal professionals to support your case. Intangible assets such as trade secrets are often left out of estate planning, which can create a grey area in challenging the division of an estate.

The team at Gerard Malouf & Partners Will Disputes Lawyers understand the complexities of dealing with intellectual property, and are dedicated to helping our clients achieve a favourable outcome for their case. For more information, get in touch with our team.

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