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How intellectual property affects your estate plan

On Behalf of | Jun 22, 2023 | estate planning | 0 comments

If your California estate includes intellectual property, then there are additional considerations when you’re writing an estate plan. You may want to name beneficiaries for your intellectual property and estimate the potential costs that they’ll incur, such as patent renewal fees.


Copyright protection usually lasts for 70 years after the author’s death. If the author was an employee who created the work as part of their job, then the copyright protection lasts for 95 years after their death from the first publication or 120 years after its creation. The expiration date that arrives sooner is the one that the law uses. Published works from before 1978 may have additional terms.

If you own a copyright, then estate planning law will pass it and the work on to your heirs based on a residuary clause if you didn’t name a beneficiary. To choose who receives your copyright, you could designate a beneficiary in your will. Intellectual property division isn’t always sensible when the state determines it on behalf of a testator who didn’t make plans for it. One person might receive the copyright, but another gets the actual work.


If you are working on an invention, you could include terms in your estate plan to obtain a patent for it if you die before having the chance to file an application. The executor would file the patent application on your behalf. When you transfer a patent to a beneficiary, you need to include several pieces of information: the patent number, the new owner and the person who is responsible for the patent fees. You also need to record the new owner with the United States Patent and Trademark Office. Patents last 14–20 years before they need renewal.

It’s possible to pass on intellectual property after your death, as long as you follow estate planning law. The rules may vary based on the type of intellectual property that you’re giving to a beneficiary.