My Legacy

From time to time I write about books I’m reading, have finished, or am remembering fondly. I’ve just finished two books I got from the library: Quick & Legal Will Book and Estate Planning Basics, both by Denis Clifford, an attorney.  “Why, oh why, Marilyn?” you ask, clutching your pearls. It’s kind of a long story so stick with me. There’s something to do with writing at the end of this, I promise

Every time Jonathan and I fly, we look at each other and say, “We really need to have a will.” In spite of our addiction to the television program “Air Disasters”, we know flying is safer than driving, but still, when you’re together and should the worst happen to us both at the same time, what poor sod is going to deal with all our piles and piles of stuff? So I’m reading these books to help me get a handle on how to make a plan. I’ve seen the Bleak House disaster that is a contested will and the generalized mayhem that results from moving on to the next adventure without a will. I hope to spare my grieving friends and relatives (assuming, of course, they will be grieving) from the agony of a long, drawn out probate and other horrors.

Here are some things I have learned. Even lawyers admit the purpose of probate is to enrich lawyers and the state. There are ways to avoid probate with clever estate planning and tools like Transfer Upon Death, and Pay Upon Death, living trusts, Joint Tenancy or Joint Ownership, and cleverly giving away your stuff before you die so you know the things you want to go to certain people will indeed go to those people. I have learned that you don’t need attorneys. That different states have different laws (no surprise there). People probably have way more assets than they think. And most people don’t have enough total assets to need to pay estate tax.

Another thing I learned is that the hardest thing for me is figuring out who the heck to name as an executor. It’s got to be someone who likes you enough to put up with the pain and agony that is dealing with an estate. Fortunately, there is a guide book for that, too. And who do you leave what to? If I fall off my perch first, easy. Everything goes to my poor husband who has to deal with it, and I’m, ahem, free as a bird. Over the past few years, a lot of friends and relatives have passed, and watching their relatives try to figure out what to do with all the stuff has been painful to watch. So even if everything goes to Jonathan, a will might give him some ideas about how to dispose of some of the piles and piles of piles and piles.

But one of the more interesting things I learned–here is the bit about writing–is that you can and should leave you copyrights to someone. And that includes copyrights for things like blogs, short stories, articles, books, and so forth. Until I’d read these books, this had never occurred to me. If you’re curious about how long a copyright is good for, go here.

Rule of thumb is the author’s life time plus 70 years. If you have anything that has been or should be copy righted, give this some thought. If I make it clear who has control of my publications, after I’m long gone and someone wants to buy the rights and turn my stuff into movies, my heir might get a nice check. Or I may sink into obscurity. I’m okay either way.

Image:  Books with legal advice. Photo by Marilyn Evans.