EDITING 101: 10 – What Happens When You Die? – NOT in a Metaphysical sense…

What Happens When You Die?

Wait, wait, don’t run away.

This is not a religious post.

This is a practical, necessary discussion about your writing, your books, your accounts, etc., when you bite the dust.

It’s going to happen to all of us, sooner or later, and writers have additional details to worry about—or their heirs and estates, if the writers don’t address it. What happens to your copyright? What happens to your accounts? Who can keep selling your books? There are lots of questions to answer, and it’s best if you think about it ahead of time. You’ve learned a lot through your journey of writing, publishing, and marketing. How many years did it take you to get where you are today? Are your heirs going to have automatic knowledge and know what to do? Probably not.

First, let’s learn the language. What we’re talking about are your “literary assets” and “literary estate.” Your writing can also be called your “intellectual property” (IP) and “intellectual property assets.” The person who manages these things after you’re gone might be called a “literary trustee.”

So what does happen to your IP after your death? That’s up to you, so start thinking. Who is going to be your trustee? How will royalties and income be distributed? Will there be any provision for extending your copyright, which expires 70 years after your death?

This article is fairly big on questions and fairly skimpy on information. That’s because each country, state, and family is different. What works for one author might not work for another, so you have to make your own decisions. I can only offer places to start. A lawyer will be needed to set up the trust and other arrangements. A will is a definite necessity!

Here are the blog posts from which the ideas for this theme were taken:

Death and the Self-Published Writer 01

Death and the Self-Published Author 02

Along these lines, I mentioned accounts.

Passwords will be needed by your trustee in order to manage your assets, so be sure you keep a list—somewhere, offline, frequently updated!—of your important passwords. Your Amazon.com password, CreateSpace, private printers, etc.—anywhere you do business on a regular basis.

Your trustee will be able to find account numbers and usernames on the subscribing emails, if you kept them, but passwords change.

Without the passwords, your trustee’s job will be much more difficult.

Many companies, not just those involved in publishing, neglect policies and procedures for transferring accounts to an heir or trustee.

They just don’t think that far ahead.

So you need to.

Next week we’ll discuss ‘Using a Thesaurus’

To see the index and catch up with missed episodes of this series – CLICK HERE


This series is not meant to be (nor will it be) simple static information.

I’ll be here for each post to answer questions, offer suggestions as necessary, and interact with you.

If there’s something you specifically want (or need!) to see addressed in terms of self-editing, please let me know in the comments under this, or any of the articles of the series.





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33 thoughts on “EDITING 101: 10 – What Happens When You Die? – NOT in a Metaphysical sense…

  1. Thank you. I wonder now since social media has grown with so much of the worlds population if lawyers have certain ways to handle this type of stuff now? Like with what you had said about amazon? I have cards and passwords linked to the account that nobody else knows. How would they know or how would they get the information to remove my stuff? For example I’ve had a few friends pass away in the last couple of years and their Facebook account is still up and running Were allowed to post anything we want and it’s never monitored. I think about this kind of stuff but never actually written it down any where . Thank you again

    Liked by 2 people

    • I don’t think lawyers can take care of it, SpiritLady, unless someone has the passwords to the account. I’m pretty sure that Facebook and other social media sites will NOT allow anyone access to an account, even if that person is dead, without knowing the password. Yes, it’s a shame when the site is left abandoned and anyone can post anything they want. It’s different when a profile is left up purposefully as a memorial—monitored and restricted/filtered.

      Thanks for reading and commenting!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. This is an important issue & it’s good to get it highlighted. I am not sure about other jurisdictions, but here in NZ the fate of intellectual property is a tricky issue. Copyright certainly lasts beyond death (50 years, in our case) but the power to administer it has to be explicitly passed on in a will. Social media content (usually) should fall into the same provisions, making it essential to have some way for executors to access the accounts. It’s an issue that the social media providers themselves are only generally coming to grips with lately, I suspect – it wasn’t at the forefront of their minds when they began offering the services just a few years ago.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks for the New Zealand-specific information, Matthew! As I said to SpiritLady, I don’t think the social media sites will ever give out the password, even to heirs. So those passwords are important and a list of them needs to be kept up-to-date!

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Such a great post. as soon as I became aware of all this, i added my grandchildren to my will to inherit royalties to my books and have control etc and passed on my passwords to an offspring to close everything down when I go. I think the lady in the wills office thought I was slightly mad, but was very polite about it 🙂 She just knew my name wasn’t Patterson, King, or anything similar!

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Awesome point. This is important for any and all online accounts / presence. Someone needs to close accounts and / or notify your subscribers.
    I’ve noticed not quite a handful of online people who are no longer with us but no one has closed their accounts. Can it be some cannot go away even if someone has the proper information?

    Liked by 2 people


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