Planning for the end (of life that is)

Somewhere in a box I have poems that my father wrote over the years.  He was never published, he just wrote for himself (or as gifts to others).  And when he died I took ownership of his writings.

Every once in a while, I think about pulling together a book of his poems and publishing them.  Not for fame or fortune, but just for love and to honor a man who gave so much to others.  (So, if you someday see a Kickstarter project along those lines, it may well be me trying to find someone other than me and my brother who will want to read the completed project.)

One of the issues that raises is whether I actually have the right to publish his works.  I think I do.  He was divorced when he died and I doubt my brother really cares if I do it.  And it’s been so many years that I’m sure his former creditors aren’t too concerned about me publishing some small poetry book.  I assume they’ve long since written off any of his debts.

But for others the situation may not be so simple.  Maybe you’ve already self-published a few books.  Or you’ve traditionally published works.  Or maybe you have ten people who could claim rights to your estate and who don’t like each other much.  Or there’s one person who would passionately work to publish your writing and someone with an equal right to your estate who would burn “that garbage” you wrote.

Which is why I thought I’d share this post by Neil Gaiman: Important.  And pass it on…

It’s important to think about your literary estate before, well, it’s too late for you to think about it.  My mom likes to say there’s no way I’ll die before her and I like to point out that anyone can get hit by a bus and die tomorrow, including me.

Life is full of randomness and while I don’t recommend dwelling on the prospect of death, it is a possibility for any of us on any given day.  So, if there’s something you care about protecting after you die, take the steps to do so now while you can.

(I say this and I have yet to put together any sort of will myself…)

Here’s a somewhat related article by the U.S. government: How and Why You Should Write a Social Media Will

Another thing to think about.  I find those Facebook memorial accounts downright creepy.  And I hate getting friend suggestions for people I know are dead.  So, I am firmly on the side of “delete my frickin’ account if I die.”  (I’m also firmly on the side of “nobody should read my private communications after I die.”)  But, without that written down somewhere, it’s no longer in my control.

So, think about it.  And take the steps you need to to get things in the order they need to be.  Because the only certainty in life is that we will all one day die.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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2 Responses to Planning for the end (of life that is)

  1. Keri Peardon says:

    From a legal standpoint, if your father gave you or willed you his poetry, then it’s yours to do what you want with it–the same as if he gave you his car or a cedar chest. And unless your state laws are really weird, no creditors would have a claim on that poetry, even you make loads of cash from it, because it’s your property per the settlement of the estate. They’d have a hard time arguing that the poetry was undervalued in the estate since it was unpublished at the time and your father was not a well-known writer or poet. And since you’re going to do all the editing and work it takes to get it published, that leans it even more into the realm of your property.

    My husband and I keep a list of our passwords, so if one of us goes, the other will be able to access all the bank accounts, web sites, social media, sites, etc. That’s definitely a list you need to keep fairly up-to-date and put it with your will with someone designated to take care of closing everything down for you.

    You may also want to have a “destroy on my death without looking” box. There have been a lot of Dear Prudie letters concerning dead parents’ love letters (to people who were NOT their spouse) and their homemade sex tapes. So make sure you make provisions for those things that should die with you.

    I’m going to amend my will to address my writing; when I die, the copyright is to be released, so there will be no heirs publishing my unpublished stuff in order to make money (if they publish any of it, it will be an act of love). Copyrights are automatically released when someone dies in Australia, but in America, they last for 75 years after death. Other countries vary.

    • mhleewriter says:

      Yeah, he just died. No formal will. No probate. We’re small fries, so, like I said, I doubt anyone actually cares at this point. They certainly haven’t said anything after all these years…

      My problem with a “destroy on my death” box is that most of the people I’d tell about that would think that’s just the perfect thing to go looking at now, because it must be really interesting. (It wouldn’t be. I’m dull as hell, but, you know, I don’t need anyone knowing that until after I die.)

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