Last Will and Testament – A Writers Guide

Loot my body ‘cause it’s all you’re getting

I faced the fact years ago that only a small percent of writers actually make the Big Time. They have book runs of over a million, they do book signings and interviews, they have signed their names so many times their fingers are deformed and they make more money than Mount Olympus has egos.

I think, in general, writers write because we are compelled to do so. Why else would we work for peanuts, pull all-nighters and expect people to understand what we have to say despite it being channeled from deranged minds in the Great Beyond?

In readiness of the inevitable, all writers should try to leave a Last Will for their loved ones. Most of us won’t need lawyers for this.

The first step would be to hunt down a standardized will package. This is NOT something you purchase with the newest diet craze. It is a legitimate ready-to-use packet containing all you’ll need to prepare your last mortal document. Click here

And don’t forget the dictionary for those legal terms.  Click here.

Ok, so you have the package. What follows are a few tips for the answers to your family’s questions about your possible / inevitable demise.
–         I’m doing a contract piece on wills.
–         Just browsing.
–         After the chaos with your Great Aunt Edna’s will, do you think I’m going to leave without one??
–         Don’t worry, just doing a review for the paper.
–         No you may NOT have power of attorney yet.
–         Yes, they ARE binding.

Let’s take a look at the real reason for wills, mainly, because most of us will never get the chance to use one for its ultimate purpose – distribution of wealth.

As your family gathers around the kitchen table (no oak-paneled libraries here), they convene under a tense veil of sorrow and grief. Some more than others but you won’t be there so don’t dwell on it.

So here is a list of what goes to whom. Short list. You’d think there would really not be much to argue about. But that, my friends, goes against human nature.  Your family WILL argue about your things. Therefore, use it as leverage. Cure the ills of your family even after you’re dead. What better legacy could you leave. Force those not speaking to work out a deal over the twist-tie collection in your kitchen drawer. Encourage education by leaving your illiterate cousin your vast collection of old newspaper clippings. You get the idea. They will argue despite nothing to argue over. They will whine that you promised such and such years ago.

The answer? Leave nothing. Which in the case of writers, is not that difficult. With nothing to fight over, they’ll still fight but you won’t be there so don’t dwell on it.

The following points are definite *do’s* in a writer’s will.

First  –  make sure you have all your writing categorized and catalogued. Yes, catalogued. Believe it or not, they may just glean something from this chaotic collection of your thoughts and creations.

Second –   never leave anything to chance. List every possible asset you have, including works unfinished. Just look at how many copies of The Mystery of Edwin Drood have sold since Dicken’s death. A fine example of unfinished business. If you end up finishing any of these, start another. No writer should leave all mysteries solved.

Third  –  tag every paragraph with “pending”. This will drive them insane.

Fourth –  make sure you have a paragraph stating that your major organs are not eligible to be put up for sale on the underground body parts market – so looting your body is not even an option. After all, what could they possible get for strained corneas, kidneys at half-production from caffeine intake and a heart that hasn’t seen the light of daily exercise? 

Be ready for the inevitable. Your family will thank you.


Copyright – J. Thompson