If you’re a creative sort who has amassed a significant body of work, you may wonder what happens to it all when you’re gone.

This is where a will and a trust are really essential. Leaving your intellectual property to your heirs should be handled carefully so that both the integrity of your work and its value are properly preserved.

What kinds of intellectual property can be willed to your heirs?

To best understand what you’re leaving behind, you have to understand what you own. Your intellectual property rights include things like:

• Patents: If you’ve been an inventor or designer, you may own several patents. It’s wise to check your registration materials (especially if you worked with a partner) to be sure who owns what as you decide how they should be handled.
• Copyrights: If you’re a musician, artist, writer or software designer, you likely have numerous original works to your name. You can generally pass the exclusive rights to their use or licensing on to your heirs.
• Trademarks: If you run a business, you may own several trademarks that help identify your brand. Those are definitely worth addressing in your estate.

What can be done with your intellectual property rights?

Like any other item of value, your intellectual property rights can be divided up as you see fit. Here are some of the questions your estate plans should address:

• What tax concerns need to be addressed? Your intellectual property may need to be valued so that you can plan for any tax issues your heirs may face.
• Who should inherit your body of work? You can parcel out individual pieces of work or keep an entire collection together.
• How can you maximize the value of your work? Having a plan for your work after you’re gone and making sure that your intellectual property is treated  properly can often be accomplished with a trust.

If you’ve never considered what will happen to the products of your labor after your death, it may be time to consult with an experienced attorney about your options.