Miss Snark directed readers yesterday to a blog of Neil Gaiman's from last month.
Neil is on a crusade to get writers to make wills--specifically, wills that dispose of their intellectual property. He tells a story about a writer who died without a will, thereby leaving the rights to his books by default to his estranged wife who did not handle those rights the way he would have wanted them handled.
Neil's post stopped me in my tracks. I do have a will. I also have an advance health directive, giving instructions on how to handle my health care should I become incapacitated and unable to speak for myself. Frankly, I've congratulated myself for being very responsible about such matters. However, I have given no thought whatsoever to intellectual property rights.
Had someone mentioned this issue to me before, I would have pooh-poohed the idea, arguing that such worries were pretentious for a newbie writer. I no longer think that way.
Even if you are unpublished, you should think about the person you would want to control the rights to your works after your death. If you think I'm being silly, read the Wikipedia entry on John Kennedy Toole, who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize posthumously twelve years after his death. Here's the link.
Everyone needs a will. Everyone needs an advance health directive. Every WRITER needs to address what will happen to his/her intellectual property after death--even if all you want is for someone to burn all existing manuscripts.
We're coming up on the end of the year. Start the new year off right. If you don't already have a will, please consider drawing one up and addressing intellectual property rights as a part of the process. If you already have a will, read Neil's post here and think about appointing a specific person to address your intellectual property issues. I love and respect my executor, but he is not the person I want to direct my intellectual property issues.
While you're at it, read the information on an advance health directive here.
Do these things for yourself. Do these things for your children. Do these things for the ones you love.