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Creating Estate Plans for Musicians & Musical Works


As estate planning attorneys here in Florida, we talk a lot about planning for assets, but what happens when those assets are song lyrics and recordings? These types of assets (i.e. intellectual property items—copyright, name/likeness, trademark, etc.) are incredibly important, and present an entirely different type of challenge than physical property (like jewelry or the family home, for example).


When it comes to music recordings, there are two types of copyrights involved: The recorded song and the underlying composition/songwriting. These are protected under copyright law and preserved for 70 years after death. After this, the music enters the public domain, which means that anyone can record the song without penalty.

Addressing Royalties

In addition, these assets can continue to generate funds well after a musician has passed, which means that an estate plan needs to address who administers these royalties and benefits from them.

Publishing Rights & Songwriting Credits

A number of bands and other musical groups may also want to plan for things like publishing rights to trademark and songwriting credits assigning the appropriate credit for music to each member of the group.

Holographic Tours

Holographic tours are growing in popularity each day and may serve as an option for a musician who wants to creatively go about protecting their name and likeness. It can also help with copyright and trademark rights, as well as generating income for heirs.

Personality Rights

Musicians can also plan for how they want their image to be preserved after their death via what are known as “personality rights,” which cover commercial use of identity and rights of publicity. Florida, for example, provides this protection via both a common law and statutory right.

The Case of Aretha Franklin

Superstars like Aretha Franklin highlight just how important it is for musicians and other artists to do the right estate planning: When she passed, she reportedly did not have a will, and reports indicate that three different handwritten wills were found in her home and submitted as part of the probate process to see if any have legal standing. There is no question that this could cost her heirs a tremendous amount of money; not to mention time and potential fighting in the family as well. Ultimately, it also entirely possible that whatever the court decides will not necessarily be in keeping with what she envisioned, unfortunately.

Contact Our Florida Estate Planning Attorneys for Artists to Find Out More

When it comes to particular and specific estate planning, you want to make sure you work with the right law firm in ensuring that your name, likeness, and other important aspects of your work fall into the right hands in an effort to protect your legacy and ensure that it is kept going and survives you as you see fit. Contact us at Suncoast Civil Law today to find out more.