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Protecting and fighting for future creative rights

When approaching the task of estate planning, it can be difficult to remember to include all possible assets. Legal professionals in the niche are typically trained to ask questions that help clients remember all assets or uncover assets that might be relevant to an estate. One type of asset you might not consider when creating wills and trusts is creative works. If you are an artist, writer, inventor, or creator of another type of work or idea, it can be beneficial to consider these things during estate planning.

No matter how commercially successful the works are, they could have some value for your estate in the future. Framing those works within estate planning documents creates some protection for yourself and your heirs; you can pass on your rights to income associated with works to your heirs.

At the same time, including creative works in estates can mean added administration tasks for heirs, so you'll need to weigh the benefits against the extra work. For example, comedian team Abbot and Costello left a large body of work to their heirs. The heirs have benefited from royalties and other income associated with those works for decades.

Those heirs have also had to protect the assets various times in courts of law. Most recently, the heirs filed a lawsuit against a Broadway play, stating that the play used a portion of the well-known "Who's on First?" skit, infringing on copyright. Ultimately, the heirs lost that lawsuit, as the judge ruled that the playwright altered the material enough and used it in a way that was transformative.

While heirs of creative assets won't win every legal battle, protecting creative rights legally is important. You can begin with solid estate planning that builds a strong foundation to protect your rights as you age and protect your heirs in the future.

Source: ABC News, "Broadway Play Wins Lawsuit Over Heirs to 'Who's on First'," Larry Neumeister, Dec. 17, 2015

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