How far ahead do you think? #EstatePlanning for #Authors

I am no expert on this subject, but I’ve saved a few notes about it with a ‘get to this someday’ tag.

It’s not something we like to think about – dying – but for the sake of our family and friends, we really should bite the bullet, so to speak.

Please be assured nothing morbid has happened to me recently, but in this climate of uncertainty about the dreaded virus, and the fact someone shared this particular piece from Neil Gaiman on Facebook, I thought I’d bring the topic up for those of you who’ve never considered it.

Many years ago, a sad event first brought this to my notice: one of the founding members of our long-lived writer’s group passed away most unexpectedly (he choked on his food). He, at least, had appointed a literary executor – another member of the group, who still manages the large body of work that survived him.

And that’s the point – unlike many other things, when you die, your literary work will continue without you. If you don’t appoint someone to be its legal guardian, who will benefit from subsequent royalties, or continue to keep your catalogue in the public eye? It’s likely your family won’t know what to do with it, even if you have left it to them along with your other worldly goods.

And if you haven’t left a will at all? Hmm. I’m not entirely sure where it will go – that probably depends on what country you live in – but it most certainly won’t benefit anyone you would like it to.

I have a basic will. As someone with no dependants, everything I leave (at the moment) will go to a selection of animal charities. However, I really should get around to appointing a literary executor (this can be someone completely different to the executor of the will). Ideally, this will be someone who will manage my IP and my catalogue of works such that it will continue to produce income that can then be distributed to whomsoever I want to benefit from it. This means the best choice is someone who has at least a basic knowledge of how a literary business runs.

Failing that, someone who is interested enough to learn quickly when the time comes.

Neil Gaiman’s piece includes a downloadable will template with advice on how to use it that you may find useful, and here’s another article, which also touches on the complications introduced if you have any projects you share with other authors:

I know its not a cheery subject, but I think it IS a necessary one: I would like for my work to continue benefitting my chosen charities long after I’ve gone. Now I just have to take my own advice and get around to it!

What about you? How many of you have made some sort of legal provision for your work? As indies, we will likely have a large catalogue by the time we trundle off to that great library in the sky…

Don’t forget to pre-order your copy of the concluding book in The Five Kingdoms series, out on December 14th


  1. Thank you so much for this post, Debby! Like many, I’ve been putting this type of thing off for WAY too long, and MUST get busy! At my age (closing in on 78 now), and with the still-ongoing, ever-mutating COVID situation, there’s even more reason to stop delaying.

    Also, I really appreciate these two links. Will be reading and bookmarking them for continued reference. I want this taken care of by year’s end, for sure. And then, I can live the next 30 years with peace of mind! (What? You didn’t know I planned to keep writing until I’m 107????)

    Thanks again, Debby. You’ve reminded me to get BUSY with this! 🤗💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I reckoned if I did a post on it, I might get my own act in gear and get it done! And I’ll bet there’s a lot of people out there who haven’t even realised they CAN appoint a literary executor.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Deb, such an important post. I’m heading over to read your link. But I’m happy to say, I’ve already done this designation in my Will. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Good for you, Deb. I don’t know many who have.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I made my first will when the kids were young, to be sure they went into the care of someone I trusted if husby and I disappeared. I updated it to provide for the dog, extra resources to whoever of my children took his care on. I broached my library of books with my kids and both are pretty disinterested. So, I am going to read the articles you suggest. A literary executor–what a concept!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah, it was a total revelation to me that you could appoint someone just to handle your literary catalogue, completely separate to the rest of your will. Such an important step if your works aren’t going to go to waste after you die – someone might as well benefit from the income!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks for this timely advice. Something to look into.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. This is my way of prompting myself to get on with it, and hopefully help a few others to do the same along the way.

      Liked by 1 person

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