Your Will, Letter of Instruction, and Obituary or Author Bio
Important documents for authors to have prepared prior to your death.
Your literary work, whether published or not, is property, the same as real estate. If you’ve never been published before, your literary properties may or may not have any value. If you are an author of note, your published books might continue to bring in a good income for years to come, and your unpublished works might get published posthumously.
You should decide what you wish to happen to your writing in the event of your death.
Your representative will be handling your publishing business affairs and passing on the rights to your literary property to your designated heirs. For this to happen, you should have a will in place. Your heirs can receive unspecified literary works (which is easiest because you don’t have to update your will frequently) or you can name specific titles to go to specific people.
Note: If you have a corporation for your writing business, you will need to follow your attorney’s advice about how to list heirs to your literary properties. It is beyond the scope of this article series.
Your Letter of Instruction
This is a document separate from your will, but it should be referenced in your will. It further details personal and business things you wish to have done. By keeping it separate, you can change the specifics whenever you choose.
An easy way to do this might be to have a Word file on your computer labeled Current Letter of Instruction in the Event of My Demise. You should also keep a printed copy or several copies that you’ve signed, dated and placed where they will be quickly found, if needed.
Included in your Letter of Instruction might be the names of the publishing professionals who should be contacted immediately in the event of your death. It might also specify which heir gets the future royalties from which books, so that you don’t need to include these details in your will. (Be sure to check with your attorney for current advice about these things.)
Note: Decide what you want done about your manuscripts, notes and research. Include this information either in your Letter of Instruction or else in your will. Authors with a following might consider donating these items to a college or university.
Your Author Biography, Autobiography or Obituary
You should be maintaining an up-to-date author biography anyway, but in the event of your death, it will become very helpful to your loved ones as they prepare your obituary.
If you become a noted writer, the media will want your Author Biography (written in third person) or Autobiography (written in first person), too. Your representative or next of kin can easily provide your current prepared document to anyone who asks for it.
Or, perhaps you’d prefer to write up your own obituary? After all, you are an author and it might be meaningful to others if you felt like doing this personally.
Either way, Author Bio/Autobio or self-written obituary, have this information readily available outside of your will.
Copyright 2007 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.