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The decades' long story of the 'Soft Kitty' asset

Dealing with estate planning and administration means making a list of all assets, deciding on management for those assets in the future, or putting into action someone else's estate plan for those assets. But other than cash, accounts, and property such as cars and homes, what assets should you manage through the estate process? The answer depends on your individual situation and could range from items such as jewelry or family heirlooms to creative assets such as poetry and artwork.

One set of heirs is currently in a legal battle related to a single creative asset written by a woman in 1930. According to reports, a teacher in the early 20th century penned some song lyrics to use in her work in a preschool. The song lyrics were picked up by a music publisher for one of their books. Years later, it's possible all the woman's heirs were unaware of the song lyrics, as is the case with many published writings.

When the woman died, one of her daughters began research for an article. During that process, she came upon a blog talking about the use of song lyrics in popular television show "The Big Bang Theory." If you're familiar with the show, then you know that the only song lyrics that matter here are those for "Soft Kitty."

Allegedly, the "Soft Kitty" lyrics are lifted from the woman's 1930 song, titled "Warm Kitty." The woman's heirs have filed a lawsuit, alleging that the television production company used the lyrics without proper credit, permission or compensation.

At the heart of this case might be a decision about whether the book publisher had the right to grand permission about the song lyrics. But the case also makes a good point about providing heirs with information about all of your assets. If you have creative assets, work with a legal professional to understand whether you should include them in your estate, even if you aren't sure they will be especially valuable in the future.

Source: Daily Mail, "Cat fight: Producers of The Big Bang Theory are sued by daughters of poet for using their mother's 1930s lullaby Warm Kitty without permission," Dec. 28, 2015

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