Not all assets in a California estate are tangible. When considering how you will pass on your assets to your survivors, you should also consider the value of your intellectual property. All items in this category are non-tangible assets that can increase the value of your estate.
What is intellectual property?
Copyrights, patents, trademarks, trade secrets and more, including manuscripts and even websites, can be deemed intellectual property. Valuations of intellectual property can change frequently. Think of the value of patents for videotape recorders 30 years ago. Those patents wouldn’t have the same value today. If you have intellectual property, your personal preference for how that property will be treated is an essential part of your estate planning process. Intellectual property is often a highly personal proposition, yet it will outlive you, which is why you need to consider its disposition following your demise. Your beneficiaries may not value it in the same way that you do.
Ownership and transfer of assets
In your estate plan, you can gift intellectual assets to designated individuals, but first, you must prove that you own those assets. Many types of inventions have multiple owners with regard to intellectual property, and in this situation, you must determine how much of that share is yours. For other intellectual items, the company that you worked for at the time of their creation may be the actual owner. If you created an intellectual property while working for a company that you did not own, it’s wise to review your employment agreement to determine whether the intellectual property is truly an asset of yours.
Estate planning when intellectual property is involved
Proper estate planning takes time. You shouldn’t wait until you are almost at retirement age to determine how to divide your assets. Having considerable intellectual property makes it even more important to begin early. Finding a legal professional knowledgeable about intellectual property can help make the estate planning process easier.