The most valuable assets in many estates today are not physical property or financial accounts. They are intellectual property assets.
Today, we often take intellectual property rights for granted. We think of them almost as natural rights.
It just seems obvious to most people that someone who created something should naturally have ownership of it. However, this was not always the case.
Intellectual property rights are relatively new.
For example, copyrights started as nothing more than a way for English printers' guilds to decide which member had the right to print which pamphlets or books. Even 100 years ago, intellectual property was often something of an afterthought.
Nevertheless, these rights have been expanded so much, that now they are often the most valuable assets that an estate has.
The Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog points this out in "Article on Practical Considerations for Valuing Intellectual Property Assets in Estate Planning."
What this means is that executors, trustees, and the lawyers who help them need to be very careful when dealing with intellectual property rights.
If an estate has a patent, for example, then it needs to be able to determine how much that patent is worth for estate tax purposes and it needs to know if the patent is co-owned with other people who could have a say in how it is used.
The estate must also take affirmative steps to protect the intellectual property rights, when necessary to do so.
Because these assets can be so valuable, it is very important for estates to seek out professional advice on how to handle them.
Reference: Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog (July 15, 2017) "Article on Practical Considerations for Valuing Intellectual Property Assets in Estate Planning."