Everyone should have an ICE folder; In Case of Emergency. Many people, including me, have a folder I can grab as I exit. I've notified everyone in the immediate family where it is (not that they'll remember). It contains the necessary vital info: financials, important documents, phone numbers of family, doctor, schools, accountant, lawyer, pastor.
If you died, or became incapacitated, you may have set guidelines for your physical body, but what about your body of work? Here are 6 things you need to consider:
Who will contact your agent in the event of the worst kind? Whoever will be handling your affairs needs to know the name, address, phone number and agency (in case the agent has moved on). Keep this important info with your other legal documents. The same holds true for a publicist.,
What about your editor? If you're in the midst of a rewrite, or launch, they need to be notified so they can take the appropriate action. (You might want to check your contract to see what it says- it's possible that any advance might have to be repaid if the book isn't finished. Leave a copy with the other legal documents for reference.)
Authors have many business contacts- conference/workshop/store hosts, etc. who will need to be contacted immediately that you won't be attending. Always leave numbers and names of contacts for such events in a handy place (on the refrigerator?). And don't forget, that if you're going the Indie route by CreateSpace, Smashwords, or other vehicle, they will need to be notified. However, a death certificate and possibly a Power of Attorney or other legal document giving you authorization may be required to cancel or access accounts.
Your actual works- have you decided what is to become of them? Will they die with you? Even if you aren't published, that doesn't mean that they never can be. You could leave them to someone to publish after your death. I made my sister my 'artistic' beneficiary, with the expressed hopes that even if she went Indie just for the family, that certain manuscripts would be published (notably my Evolution Revolution series, but that's pubbed now, so I have to update my 'wish list.') Or, you could designate that they remain part of the estate and stay within the family to pass down. Just make a provision for your work like you would your jewelry. No matter what, put it in writing; it's best if it's part of a legal Will, with a copy of any provisions about your works, sent to whomever will handle your artistic matters. You should consult a lawyer about specifics; this is only an advisory to seek proper legal protection.
Maybe someone shares your passion for literature. They might be the perfect person to handle your author affairs. Again, I designated my sister not only because she's one of my biggest fans, but because she understands the importance of my wishes for my works. Lawyers won't get involved in that unless there is a contract for a film, TV series, licensing, etc.
Finally, (and I shouldn't even have to mention it), but make sure there are copies of your work in secure places. What good is it if everything is on a flash drive, but it's in your desk drawer and your house burns down? What good if you have multiple copies on your laptop, but it's stolen? You could store it in the cloud (after the leaking of Hollywood celeb pics, I'm not too sold on cloud security), but there are other formats to save your work, rather than bulky, vulnerable paper copies. (One cheap way is to email it to at least 2 accounts. Make sure someone you trust has the password, or you leave it with your other important documents.) A list of where all your works are will ensure that they are protected.
As a former paralegal specializing in Estates and Trusts, I've seen too many examples (even in my own family) of messy estates where assets were fought over, stolen, or neglected because there were no binding legal guidelines. People felt uncomfortable talking about final disposition of their assets. If you don't decide what happens with your property, the state will (and each state is different, so don't depend on a verbal discussion you had with someone at some time, in another state, etc. See how confusing it can become?). Even if you make a simple list and make the direct people involved aware of your wishes, it can go a long way toward guaranteeing that your manuscript babies are provided for.
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