An interesting case of estate law this winter involved the iconic character Sherlock Holmes. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, late author of the Sherlock stories, has an estate run by nine descendants.
They attempted to block a new anthology from being published, because it contained elements of later stories that won’t enter copyright domain until 2022. The family said even the use of Holmes and Watson required a license. The judge, however, ruled that the story elements were so familiar at this point as to be public and not limited to the story.
Planning for Your Family
When it comes to good estate planning, having a working knowledge of future deadlines and timelines is important, whether you’re an author or a parent. If your children are under 18, for example, you should make sure there is clear guidance in place for how they will be taken care of in the case of your death. A will is required to name guardians for children, and a revocable living trust can be used to make sure children are provided for over time, rather than being handed a one-time chunk of money.
Planning for Your Business
You might not leave an iconic detective series behind, but what about a business you own? Estate planning is important here as well. Without establishing a clear path for what occurs after death, your business might become badly managed, or disband. In your will, you can include, for example, a “buy/sell” agreement, in which someone else has already agreed that, in the instance of your death, they will buy your business. This will assure that your heirs are provided for. You can also discuss with your estate planning attorney how taxes will be handled. Business laws dictate that death taxes can comprise a significant percentage of your business’s value. Certain IRS tax breaks, though, such as Section 303, can help to alleviate this tax burden if taken advantage of correctly.
You can also discuss the possibility of you and your partners establishing life insurance policies against each other. Many companies lack liquid assets that would allow them the capital to buy out the shares of a deceased partner; this capital, though, could come from life insurance.
Planning for Business AND Family
Running a family business can be tricky when it comes to dividing the business among heirs. If only some of your children will take over the business, do the others still receive an equal share? Do you want the involved children to buy out the ones who aren’t involved with the business? Work with an estate planning attorney to cement these details, so that there will be no confusion or arguments in the event of your passing.
Have you met with an estate planning attorney yet? Contact us to get started!