Tag Archive for: Estate Planning for authors

Manning Wolfe’s New Year’s Resolution: Estate Planning

Many of my author friends
are, like me, recovering attorneys and judges. We work hard to balance our analytical
and creative abilities to produce engaging stories and books, but we can’t
always avoid addressing practical issues. Today, my friend, author and lawyer Manning
Wolfe, guests on The Stiletto Gang to address an issue of importance to all writers:  estate planning. — Debra

Author’s New Year’s Resolution: Estate Planning by Manning Wolfe

Recently, Bill, my mate, and I were
sharing our passwords, bank account logins, etc. and double checking our wills.
When we originally wrote those wills, neither of us had a book published. Now,
we both have several. We needed to incorporate the new intellectual copyright
asset(s) into our estate disposition plan.
The second book in my series, Music
Notes: Texas Lady Lawyer vs. L.A. Baron
centers on the probate of the
estate of Liam Nolan, a down and out musician with a seemingly worthless song
portfolio. Liam dies before he is able to finalize his will. The estate becomes
more valuable due to renewed interest by a younger generation of music lovers.
Liam’s prior manager, L.A. Baron vies for the estate. Baron puts heroine Merit
Bridges under a microscope and goes after her life and livelihood as she tries
to defend Liam’s last wishes.
While Music Notes tracks music
copyrights, there are many parallels to book copyrights. The standard copyright
for books is your life, plus seventy years (with exceptions). We all will
obviously be gone before that seventy years has run out.
It’s easy to remedy this legacy issue
– just decide who you want to have your book rights and put a

specific bequest
in your will.
If you don’t have that specific clause, the assets will go into
what’s called your residual estate – the “anything left” basket. If you are
comfortable with your book assets going to the people who split what’s left
after all specific bequests are satisfied, no need to modify your will.

How does the beneficiary or
beneficiaries know what you have and how to claim it? If you are prolific, it
may take quite a bit of sorting to figure out what rights you have and where
they are. Hence, the dreaded spreadsheet, a list of your copyrights, where each
book is published, if an agent or publisher has a percentage, etc.
You are probably receiving payments
with breakdowns of the rights contained in the associated reporting. Putting
that information into a spreadsheet, or computer folder and sending it to your
executor or future heir is imperative. If you are absolutely averse to typing
up a spreadsheet, put a printed copy of each report in a file folder and label
it “Book Rights”. At least your heirs will have a place to start following the
trail for each of the assets.
A final letter could also be used to
indicate your wishes and list assets which may not be itemized in a will, although
a letter is more of a request than a directive. Adding Dropbox login in formation
to the letter and having the covers and manuscripts organized online could also
be helpful. The parts of your novels can easily be dragged and dropped into a
few well labeled files online.
The advantage of any of these
information methods is that they can be updated regularly without the expense
of re-visiting an attorney to add a codicil to a will. Having this information will
save hundreds if not thousands of dollars in attorney and probate fees. Also,
it will insure that nothing is missed in the sorting out process. If there is
no paper trail to a certain book, that asset could disappear.
Once the probate is filed, letters
testamentary will be issued by the court. The heir or attorney will send the
document to Amazon, iBooks, publishing house, agent, etc. This notification allows
the heir to receive continued payments from the issuer.
What if the value of the book right
now is so low as to be of little concern? Think of the many examples you’ve
read about when books were discovered after an author’s death, or books were made
into films or televisions shows.
The most valuable part of the whole
process of organizing your intellectual property assets may be peace of mind –
for you, and your loved ones.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
MANNING WOLFE an author and
attorney residing in Austin, Texas, writes cinematic-style, smart, fast-paced
thrillers with a salting of Texas bullshit. The first in her series, featuring
Austin Lawyer Merit Bridges, was Dollar Signs: Texas Lady Lawyer vs Boots
Her newest book is Music Notes: Texas Lady Lawyer vs. L.A. Baron.
A graduate of Rice University and
the University of Texas School of Law, Manning’s experience has given her a
voyeur’s peek into some shady characters’ lives and a front row seat to watch
the good people who stand against them.
www.manningwolfe.com | Twitter: @manningwolfe
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/manning.wolfe