Authors, Prepare for the Unthinkable, Your Death

Leaving Your Legacy

What should published authors do to prepare for their possible incapacitation or death? Consider these things unique to writers and their literary legacy.

Authors leave behind both a written and a human legacy. I’ve touched on the human side in my recent article, Mourning a Passing.  Here we will address some unique aspects of your written legacy. Taking certain measures will ensure that your wishes are carried out upon your incapacitation or death, and it will make the job of administering your wishes much easier for the person who must do it.

Your Property

First off, understand that each of your written works, whether articles or full-length books, is property, just like a piece of real estate, a car, or even a chair. Like real estate, you should consider what you’d like to have done with your work should you become seriously ill–or worse, die.

First Things First

Your executor or other person legally responsible for your affairs will need a list of people to contact in your behalf. Besides the practical business aspects, publishing professionals will want to send condolences to your loved ones in the event of your death.

You can make this process timely and easier if you write down the necessary information. It should be kept readily available so that it can be acted upon quickly, if necessary. For this reason, copies should be maintained outside of your safety deposit box.

Who Should Be Notified

If you are a book author and you are agented, you should leave written instructions to have your loved ones or your legal representative immediately inform your literary agent of your incapacity or death. Your written instructions should include the agent’s contact information and it should be stored with your living will (if any), your power of attorney (if any) and other such documents.

The agent will then notify the appropriate people at your publishing houses.

If you do not have an agent, then you should create a list of your current editors and their contact information so that your representative can notify them.

Certain relationships are close enough that the agent or editor should receive a phone call. If it’s a short-term relationship that is strictly about business, say to an articles editor to whom you’ve currently marketed your work, an email notification might be appropriate.  But only you, the writer, can determine this appropriateness—please don’t make others have to decide what to do.

Copyright 2007 by Barbara Doyen. All rights reserved.

See also:

Essential Things Every Author Should Do Right Now, Before Becoming Ill or Dying

Mourning a Passing

Your Will, Letter of Instruction, and Obituary or Author Bio

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