Right now, my parents are resisting me.
You roll your eyes. “Katty, what random tangent are you trying to lead me down this time?”
Just roll with me. Or scroll down to the end to get to the point. Whichever.
I’m an only child. My parents are getting up there in years. I want them to fill out a will. I don’t care what the will says: order of property possession, Katty gets nothing, everything goes into a trust for an extra-terrestrial being named Quix3n8t%$ – whatever. I don’t care. I just want the paperwork filled out and all that so when the time comes, I don’t have to fight for years in probate court, while paying taxes on property that has not been determined to be mine, but that I am legally responsible for until the details are sussed out. I don’t even need a copy of the paperwork, although that would be nice. If all I get is a business card with a law firm or a bank address and safety deposit box number on the back, that’s fine. At least I have a place to start when everything goes all to hell and I’m juggling funerals, extended family notifications – none of whom I know – grieving children, liens against the estate for hospital bills and whatever else.
To be fair, the husband and I did slack on ours, but it wasn’t because things weren’t done, it was just a pain in the ass finding a notary with a schedule that fit our own. But we did do it and everyone has a copy, so they’re not allowed to complain that we’re hypocrites.
I don’t want to dictate how the pieces on the board move, I just want to know where the hell the pieces are.
My parents don’t like this idea. I don’t know why. Perhaps they don’t want to face their own mortality. Maybe they don’t believe that I’m not a greedy bitch who can’t wait for them to die so I can liquidate everything and go on a wild vacation and spending spree in Iceland. I don’t know. But any time I’ve brought up the subject, once every few years, I’m told “we don’t’ have one, but don’t’ worry about it.”
This last episode I took the approach that probate court can take years to sort out uncontested estates, and I’ll still be financially liable for it all while it’s being sorted, and what am I supposed to do if one of my aunts (whom I don’t know and haven’t met) decides to get pissy about whatever? Because funerals tend to bring out the worst in some people, and I know my family tree isn’t devoid of assholes (which my parents have told me there are plenty of, so it isn’t like I’m being an unrealistic jerk-off with this scenario).
“We don’t have one. Don’t worry about it. You’re making a big deal out of nothing.”
Did you hear that thumping sound last week? No, not the mild earthquake in Denver (yes, Denver gets them). The one that seemed to slam into your chest like the sound barrier being broken?
That was my head trying to drill a hole in a concrete wall when my parents said that. Again.
All of this got me thinking: What happens to my work when I die? All the stories and snippets and notes and full manuscripts? Let’s say I get run over by a bus tomorrow.
What happens to all that writing that I slaved over? Is there a clear line of who gets it? Am I going to be a pissed off ghost because my kids have decided to publish it all “with just a few minor changes” that totally changed the entire concept? Am I going to turn into a wailing poltergeist when grandkids get into a court dispute over who gets what and how many cookies and you didn’t have the rights to sell grandma’s story to Hollyweird? (I can dream, dammit.)
When you, Author X of published and/or unpublished works 1, 2 and 3 die, do you know what will happen to it all?
Do you want your works (even the 3 short stories you may have published and that was it) to get hijacked by someone who simply DOESN’T GET what you were trying to do with your words?
What would happen if a car were to run over you tomorrow? As a writer? What do you want to happen to your STUFF?
I threw a question like this out there on the selfpublish yahoo.group that I lurk on. The responses mostly jived with each other – get a lawyer skilled in literary rights, schedule an INSANE amount of time to go over every minute detail. Update every time you publish new stuff.
I don’t think I was expecting a different answer, but the answers/stories that were given out were enlightening. One member of the group pointed out that Neil Gaimen has also written on this topic, and I figured that if I had questions, other folks out there did too. I know I don’t have a huge following, but if this helps even one person at least think about “oh, shit, I might actually want to be sure my wills and what-not are listed out,” then that’s a good thing.
So if you have not looked at the possibility of someone getting their grubby paws on your work and pissing in it until they like the flavor after you kick off, here’s a link.