Who Owns Your Right to Publicity After You Die?

Posted on January 3, 2011

by: Raymond Sheffield

Movie actress Ann Francis passed away the other day. So did the oldest Von Trapp Family daughter. This made me think about what might happen to their reputations, or the reputations of people they care about, if private journals or stories about their lives were to be made public.

Most estate plans deal only with stuff. Either financial or tangible. Very few actually spend any time dealing with intangible assets like intellectual property or, in this case, your right to publicity. This is not something your typical estate planning attorney discusses with a client.

For client’s who have some public recognition, there may be financial value in your client’s memoirs. Unfortunately, your client may not want them published. Often, the children are more concerned with maximizing dollars than in preserving past memories. This can lead to family fights, juicy salacious details, and increase the value of the property even more. Sometimes people get hurt and reputations are destroyed.

If you have a client who has the public’s eye. Make sure they see a qualified estate planning attorney to discuss these issues. Their reputation may hang in the balance.

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