One of the first things that an entrepreneur is told when they start out is to include their Exit Strategy into their Business Plan. This is because most entrepreneurs know that the day will come when they will want to retire.
Not many authors plan on retiring. Yes, there are authors who reach a point where their physical or mental condition prevents them from writing every day but for a lot of us writing is a compulsion. We can't imagine a day when we wouldn't write.
Like everything else though you need to plan for the day when you won't be able to write. Right now you are spending hours every day creating product – books, short stories, blog posts, articles or in the case of non-fiction writers, white papers and books. But the day will come when you are no longer writing. I hope that is the day after my funeral, but one way or another, whether we reach all of our writing goals or whether we are no longer here, you need to sit back and plan for that day because your writing will live on beyond you.
This is especially true in the age of self-publishing where our inventory will remain on the Internet for years after we have quit writing. Copyright laws dictate that your heirs however, will inherit any profits (and the copyright) for 70 years after your death.
So here are 7 tasks you need to accomplish so that your heirs know what they are getting!
- Decide who is going to manage your writing assets (your published books, your works in progress, your completed works not yet published, any potential contracts you might be offered – foreign language publications, your audio properties, etc.)
- Talk to the person you would like to have manage your assets and make sure they are willing to do so. (Choose someone with business experience who can and will oversee the business side of managing your business. This means they will be willing to deal with copyright infringement, new contract offers, etc.) This person doesn't have to be a family member. You can choose a lawyer or another business person you trust. If it is a child or spouse, make sure you take the time now to educate them on what is involved.
- Talk to a lawyer to investigate what is necessary in your state to have your chosen estate manager legally given the authority to manage your estate.
- Working with a lawyer to have a contract written that will not only give your designated estate manager the authority to manage the literary assets you leave but includes provisions regarding what happens should they no longer be able or willing to manage your writing assets. Also include provisions for any profits for the estate to be proportioned to other family members after the costs of running the business are deducted (ie cost of bookkeeping, legal fees, taxes, etc.)
- Create a document explaining all your decisions for all family members so everyone knows your wishes. Sit down and try to talk to everyone individually about what will happen to your writing business if something should happen to you.
- If you don't have family members to be your executor, consider appointing a lawyer or a designating an organization, like a university to manage the proceeds of your writing.
- Make sure you have a file somewhere (with a printed copy in a bank safe deposit box) with all the passwords to the online retailers and services you use to publish and market your online books!
Don't be surprised if some family members will refuse to talk to you about how the estate will be handled. Many people can't bear to discuss such things. However, if you take the time to plan now, your work will survive long past your ability to keep creating assets. Your family will reap the benefits and your writing can be enjoyed for generations to come.