BMI is not authorized by law to accept beneficiary designations of an affiliate’s royalty rights. Therefore, before royalties can be paid to an affiliate’s successors or heirs, they must go through an identification and verification process to establish the proper recipients.

This page is designed to help you understand the transition process from a dead BMI songwriter, composer, or music publisher to a member of his or her family or a designated heir. Knowing the steps in the process and answers to the questions you may have may make it easier for both you and BMI to continue the royalty distribution as smoothly as possible.

Royalty Transfer to Estate Process

BMI contacts the family of the recently deceased BMI affiliate, or we are notified by the family directly.

Someone from the family or a designated heir must complete the BMI Estate Questionnaire that gives us the necessary information regarding individuals who may be eligible as beneficiaries of the copyright royalties that BMI distributes.

After BMI receives the completed Questionnaire and supporting documents, we review them to establish who is legally entitled to the royalties.

BMI drafts an heir’s agreement permitting the heirs to receive direct payment of the royalties at their designated banking/mailing addresses. This can take up to six months to complete.

Heirs sign the agreement affiliating them with BMI and directing the distribution flow of royalties from the song catalog.

Once the agreement is processed, the heirs will start to receive a royalty check on a quarterly basis if the decedent’s songs are performed. This can take up to six weeks to complete.

If any change of address takes place after the initial processing of information, the heirs need to notify BMI to ensure continual receipt of payments.

Fee to transfer royalties to an affiliate’s successors or heirs

There is a $250 estate application fee for the deceased BMI affiliate’s writer account and each associated BMI publisher account.

The estate application fee is non-refundable and due in full when the BMI Estate Questionnaire is submitted to BMI. The fee is not deductible from future earnings. BMI will require appropriate supporting documentation for any requested transfer to successor(s) or heir(s). Payment of the estate application fee does not guarantee payment of royalties to the identified persons on the Estate Questionnaire until the lawful heirs or successors are confirmed and a new agreement signed.

An estate application requires:

  • A completed Estate Questionnaire;
  • Any supporting estate documents (e.g., death certificate, any last will and testament, any trust documents); and
  • Fee payment in the form of a cashier’s check, money order, or personal check payable to BMI with “AR Acct# 92000003” in the memo line.

   BMI Legal Department
   7 World Trade Center, 250 Greenwich Street
   New York, New York 10007-0030

If you have any questions or would like to pay via credit card, please call the BMI Estate Help Line at 212-220-3088.

Frequently Asked Questions about BMI and the Estate Process

When is the fee due?

What if the other heirs won’t agree to pay the fee?

Can we reduce or waive the fee?

What are BMI’s accepted methods for payment?

Is the fee refundable if I decide not to go further with the estate process? Is the fee refundable if I end up not being a lawful heir to the estate?

What is BMI?

What kind of royalties do you deal with?

Is BMI a record label or music publisher?

How should I notify BMI when my relative, who was a BMI affiliate, dies?

What does BMI do when it learns of an affiliate’s death?

Does every heir of a decedent need to complete a separate BMI Estate Questionnaire?

What is an estate?

Where can I get help in completing the BMI Estate Questionnaire?

Do I have to have the Estate Questionnaire notarized?

Do I have to submit original documents?

What does BMI do with the documents it receives?

Does BMI need the whole will or trust?

Do I have to include information about other heirs and spouses?

What happens after I send in the Estate Questionnaire?

What happens if two people send in conflicting information?

How did you know how to contact me?

What does dying intestate mean?

What is escheat?

What happened to the money that BMI escheated because it took me a long time after my relative’s death to tell you?

Can I know how much money is on hold before we start?

How long does the agreement process take?

How long after I send back the signed agreement will it take to get my share of the withheld royalties?

If I am one of several heirs and I send back my signed agreement promptly but other heirs don’t, do I have to wait for all agreements to be received by BMI before you will send me my share of the money?

After I get my check for the withheld money, when will I get paid again?

Can I assign my share of royalties to another family member?

One of our relatives who is an heir has not been in contact with the family for years and no one knows where he is. Can the rest of the heirs divide his share of royalties?

My deceased relative was a partner in a BMI publishing company and we don’t know where the other partner is. What will BMI do with the money?

My deceased relative was a stockholder in a BMI publishing company which was a corporation. What will BMI do?

What if I don’t want to use a corporation anymore for my deceased relative’s publishing company?

My brother and I inherited our father’s individually-owned publishing company. Whose address is used at BMI for contact purposes?

How long will it be before I get paid for a work that was featured in a recent film?

Will I be able to access information about my deceased relative’s royalties and songs on the BMI website?

Will I have to pay income taxes on the royalties you send me?

How do I find the royalties for record sales?

How do I find out the names of the publishers of my deceased relative’s songs?