Safeguarding Your Literary Legacy: Essential Estate Planning Tips for Authors and Self-Publishers

In the world of letters, where words are a writer's currency, the legacy one leaves behind is often encapsulated in manuscripts, copyrights, and intellectual property. As an author, especially if you're self-publishing, estate planning may not be at the forefront of your mind. However, your creative works represent not only a source of income but also a valuable intellectual legacy. Here's how to ensure that your literary assets are well-managed after you're gone.

The Unique Challenges for Authors

Unlike physical assets, intellectual property like copyrights can have a lasting impact that extends beyond an author's lifetime. For self-publishers, the complexity is further increased due to the lack of a traditional publishing house that might ordinarily handle such matters.

Core Estate Planning Tips for All Authors

Copyright Inventory

Document every piece of work you have and the copyrights you hold. Update this list regularly and include it as an attachment to your will or trust.

Literary Executor

Designate a literary executor in your will who is familiar with the publishing industry. This person will manage your literary assets and carry out your wishes related to your work.

Royalty Provisions

Ensure your will or trust spells out how royalties from your work will be distributed. This includes foreign rights, digital formats, and any potential adaptations like films or plays.

Digital Footprint

Include a list of your digital assets like websites, blogs, and social media accounts related to your author persona. Provide access information and what you'd like to happen to these accounts.

Special Considerations for Self-Published Authors

Digital Platforms

If you've published e-books or audiobooks on platforms like Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing, ensure your estate plan includes details about how these accounts should be managed.

Self-Publishing Companies

If you've used any self-publishing companies for print editions, include instructions for managing these accounts and ongoing orders.

Inventory of Physical Copies

If you keep an inventory of physical books for sale at events or through personal websites, specify how these should be managed, sold, or distributed.


Document any unfinished manuscripts, ideas, or drafts and provide instructions on what should be done with them. Can they be completed by someone else? Should they be published posthumously?

Tax Implications

As a self-published author, you're also a small business owner. Make provisions for any tax obligations that might be due upon your passing.

Distributor and Vendor Contracts

Include copies of contracts with distribution platforms or vendors and specify how these should be managed or terminated.

Your words have the power to transcend time, but without a proper estate plan, they could be lost or tangled in legal complexities. By addressing both the universal and specific challenges tied to being an author and a self-publisher, you can protect your literary legacy for generations to come.

Estate Planning

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Adult Guardianship, Supported Decision-Making, Limited Guardianship

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Emily R. Taylor is an attorney licensed by the State Bar of Arizona.  Emily Taylor practices in the areas of Special Needs Planning, Guardianships (and its alternatives), Estate Planning, and Special Needs Trusts.  The office of Emily R. Taylor, Attorney PLLC is located in Phoenix, Arizona.  Emily Taylor is available to consult on legal matters throughout the state of Arizona.

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