Last week, we lost another giant in the world. This year has been a rough one for creative types. We’re coming to an age where we will start to lose our living idols, and though that’s a tough pill to swallow, we need to learn from it as well.
The news broke this week that Prince, while an incredibly smart and savvy businessman, died without a will. I am actually quite shocked by this. Prince was known as a man, despite his super-stardom, who handled most of his business transactions himself. Even scheduling tours and shows and the rare interview. He did so much for himself instead of having an entourage of people doing it for him. But he didn’t have a will to protect his work in death.
This was a man who refused to allow his work to be included online, except for some streaming. He took on YouTube himself. He did it himself. So how could he not have a will to protect his interests in death?
It’s not a question anyone can answer because it seems so out of character. I’m really hoping it turns out that they haven’t gotten into the secret vault at Paisley Park yet and when they finally do, they’ll find a glittering golden scroll, sealed under glass near the master recordings. I hope when they unroll it, there will be a detailed account of what he wanted, all signed in glittering purple ink.
But that brings me to today’s topic. Wills for creative people, especially writers.
It seems strange to have a will when you’re relatively young, I know. Or if you don’t have children. I actually don’t have a will yet, but I’m going to rectify that. I’ve thought about this before, but like so many mundane things, it slipped my mind.
I am not a New York Times Best Seller. I am not a famous writer with millions of dollars in royalties piling up in the corners of my home. I don’t have a movie deal in the works. But I do have titles I want to protect.
I have had moderate success as an author, more than some, less than others. But I do have a catalog of titles, 16 published so far, more working on my computer, and a handful of short stories. I want the control of those to go to my husband, should I pass before him (*knock on wood*). If there is more success from my titles, I want my husband to profit from them. It seems obvious, but you never want to leave it up to fate. So I’m going to make sure to take care of it.
The renowned author, Neil Gaiman, is an incredibly helpful person and he’s taken steps to help writers with this very problem. If you don’t have a lawyer, or can’t afford to go to one, Mr. Gaiman has reached out to a lawyer-author-friend of his for help for the rest of us. He wrote up the post here. His lawyer-author-friend, Les Klinger, drafted up a simple form that works as a will for authors in the US.
Here is Mr. Klinger’s advice:
“1) Recopy the document ENTIRELY by hand, date it, and sign it at the end. No witnesses required.
2) Type the document, date it, sign it IN FRONT OF at least two witnesses, who are not family or named in the Will, and have each witness sign IN FRONT OF YOU and the other witnesses. Better yet, go to a lawyer with this form and discuss your choices!
Having said that, the first option, a “holographic will” isn’t valid everywhere — according to Wikipedia, In the United States, unwitnessed holographic wills are valid in around 30 out of the 50 states. Jurisdictions that do not themselves recognize such holographic wills may nonetheless accept them under a “foreign wills act” if it was drafted in another jurisdiction in which it would be valid. In the United Kingdom, unwitnessed holographic wills are valid in Scotland, but not in England and Wales.
So the second option is by far the wisest.”
Here is a link to the PDF, I hope you, like me, check it out and take this seriously. Writing takes up so much of our lives, it means everything to us, take care of it in death. After all, which temps death more: preparing for it, or ignoring it?