August 01, 2016 GPSolo | Best of ABA Sections

Intellectual Property Law: Preparing IP Clients for Creative Executorship

Ellen F. Brown

Creative clients may go on to have active and lucrative careers long after their deaths. A client’s posthumous income may even be greater than what the client earned while alive. When a creative person dies, if the work is to remain profitable, someone must step in and actively oversee the intellectual property (IP) in the creator’s stead. There are also noncommercial issues to address, including how best to nurture the decedent’s legacy. As one court noted in the context of literary rights, posthumous oversight “requires a delicate balance between economic enhancement and cultural nurture.” (In re Estate of Hellman, 511 N.Y.S.2d 485, 488 (Sur. Ct. 1987.)) So whose job is it to handle this important balancing act?

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