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Can I pass on my intellectual property after I die?

Intellectual property (IP) is an important way Iowa authors, business owners, artists and inventors generate their income. In fact, IP may even provide a living for relatives of an intellectual property owner, which is why if you own a copyright, a patent or any IP, you should include it in your estate plan. You can choose who you want to receive your intellectual property rights so that your heirs can profit from the IP.

Per FindLaw, like your other property and assets, you can pass on your rights to your intellectual property to another person through a will. You can do this whether you created your IP, if you had purchased them from another party, or if the IP was gifted to you. This avoids the problem of dying intestate, in which case a judge might award the rights to somebody whom you do not want to receive them.

If you wish, you may transfer the rights to your IP to your heirs while you are still alive. The upside is that you know that your property is in the hands of the people you want to inherit it; however, it also means you cannot benefit from the IP as you once did. The transfer might also be subject to gift taxes if you award it as a gift, although some transfers qualify for the annual gift tax exclusion.

Be careful that you do not make any omissions that might thwart your efforts to transfer your intellectual property ownership. If you only mention “tangible assets” in your will, your IP may not be included since they are of a more intangible nature. As a result, if you want a son or daughter to inherit the IP rights, they may not receive it. Instead, your intellectual property may end up distributed using the more general requirements for distributing assets that are a part of your estate planning information.

Additionally, if you want to transfer a physical object like a painting or a movie that you own the copyright to, you have to specify in writing that the copyright is transferred. Otherwise, your heir may only get the physical object but not the copyright. You might also have to leave instructions for your executor to administer certain actions relating to your intellectual property, such as filing paperwork with the United States Patent and Trademark Office to allow your heir to use your trademarks.

Because of the many questions surrounding intellectual property and estate planning, consultation with a professional estate attorney should be considered to answer important questions. Do not consider this article as legal advice. It is only intended to educate readers on estate planning topics.

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