Published on: 14 February 2024 in Events

Protecting your personal copyright: why is this important?

Reading time: 8 minutes and 35 seconds

We recently welcomed Cameron Crees (Associate) and Charlie Fowler (Partner) from law firm Collyer Bristow LLP for an informative talk about the importance of making a will and estate planning to protect your personal assets – specifically, your personal copyright as a director.

Here, we share the key takeaways so that you know what you need to do when it comes to your Directors UK income, and what happens to any future income, after you’re gone.

Why you should make a will

Directors are survived by their work — and Directors UK may continue to collect money for eligible directors’ work even if they have passed away, so it’s important to prepare for what you would like to happen to these payments after you’ve gone.  

There are a few things that you need to do to ensure the income generated by your copyrighted works as a director is protected and to ensure that this can be paid out quickly and easily to the right people by Directors UK following your death. That’s where your will comes in.

Things to remember when making your will

As Cameron explained, there are a couple of basic principles of making a will that you need to get right: 

• Ensure absolute clarity when you set out your wishes in relation to everything included in your estate, from your house and to its contents to guardianship of your children, for example. There should be no ambiguity regarding your wishes. 

• Considering your wishes and taking good advice will likely avoid unnecessary stress and pain for your executors – this includes thinking about inheritance tax and how it will have to be paid.  

What happens if you don’t make a will?

During the session, Cameron posed an important question — what happens when a will is not made? When someone dies without making a will, their estate passes under specific laws known as “intestacy” — the rules under these laws are very unlikely to reflect your wishes as to the succession of your estate, and they are often very tax inefficient. A well-drafted will in accordance with your wishes means that your executors have clear instructions and your estate is more tax efficient.

In England and Wales, the law of testamentary freedom means an individual is free to make provisions in their will to whomever they choose. Your will sets out your wishes with regard to the succession of your estate. Therefore, the choice of your executors cannot be overstated as they will handle your estate administration and make sure that the wishes in your will are carried out. This is commonly a family member, spouse, a close friend or colleague or, if you have the means, you could even hire a professional to do this if you think it could be too difficult or emotional for your family and loved ones. 

Setting out your express wishes in your will regardin what should happen to your assets and your estate can help to avoid unnecessary upset, confusion and expense for family and loved ones in the event of your death. 

Practical points to remember 

Charlie highlighted several ways in which you can make planning for what happens after your death and protecting any future Directors UK income that your copyrighted works might be entitled to more straightforward for your estate administrators and beneficiaries:

Make a will — this is essential. It should spell out exactly what should happen to your assets when you die and who your beneficiaries are, including your copyright as well as any income that arises from this. 

Have a specific clause that deals with copyright assets — this should be detailed instructions to your executors and to Directors UK about your appointed “successor member”. This will help avoid any delay in your Directors UK income continuing, as there won’t be any confusion about who should receive it in the event of your death. You can find out more about what you need to include in your will here.

Think about substitutes for your “successor member” — this means putting a plan in place in the event that your appointed “successor member” passes away before you or being unable to receive your Directors UK income for any reason. 

Add a “codicil” to an existing valid will — this allows you to add an additional clause without rewriting your entire will. It means you can outline changes to any wishes set out in an existing will or update your wishes regarding a specific part of your estate that might not have been included when you originally made your will. 

Make sure your executors / beneficiaries know that they must apply for a Grant of Probate — it gives them the right to handle your personal assets, so they will need this to legally inherit your copyright and any future Directors UK income.  

Talk everything through with your executors — these are the people that you nominate to deal with your estate when you die, and who will be responsible for collecting any assets. Talk to them about who you have appointed as your “successor member” to inherit your copyright and any income from it, as well as any substitutes you might have made and explain to them that they need to talk to Directors UK about what should happen to any income we may collect after your death.  

Encourage your “successor member” to set up their own will — this will help any future Directors UK income live on for years to come, as they can in turn nominate their own “successor member” to inherit your copyright and Directors UK income, and to be registered with Directors UK in the event of their own death. 

Following this guidance means that we can continue to distribute any money we may collect for your work following your death, and that your Directors UK income will pass to the people that you want to receive it.

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