Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Be My Guest: Nash Black

Today, we welcome Irene Black, who is half of the Nash Black writing partnership. I first connected with her at Murder Must Advertise during a group discussion about the legalities surrounding the death of a publisher. I invited her to share her expertise here, so today and tomorrow, she'll discuss important issues every writer should consider... before they die.

The Business of Dying
Mystery authors analyze death, dissect it, examine it, and explore it. What we neglect to do is prepare for it as it relates to our own lives. Death also has ugly companions–disability and dementia. It is our unalienable right to take responsibility for our own lives, which includes our demise.

Make a complete inventory of personal obligations to other individuals/pets, possessions owned out-right or jointly, assets such as bank accounts, safe deposit boxes, insurance policies or pension rights with their location, business entities, and financial obligations.

Each individual is different, but so are the laws that govern inheritance for each state. Do a search to learn these laws as they apply to you. Americans are a mobile population and this may entail redoing your work each time you change residence to a different state.

Consider and list all the people who could serve as executors of your wishes, guardians for minor children, or caretakers for your pets. Contact them and ascertain if they are willing and are able to serve in this capacity.

You can write your final instructions. This is called a holographic document, but it must be done in long hand, witnessed, and notarized to be accepted by the probate court. Most libraries have blank copies of standard generic will forms, which you can obtain for a small fee plus dozens of how-to books.

Take your inventories and personal information to a reputable lawyer who specializes in estate law. That person will be able to advise you as to the little nuisances you may have forgotten and the function of probate law. It could be the best investment you will ever make.

An accident or a disease can render a person unable to communicate so the first order of planning is to consider the consequences if this should happen.

Consider your situation, your family, your friends, companions, etc. and do some hard thinking.

Who will be responsible for your care and rehabilitation?

Who can assume the costs when all of your insurance is exhausted?

Who must deal with the myriad of forms required for public assistance?

Generic forms can help, but read them carefully. Read and understand every item and clause before you ever sign anything. Discuss the provisions of any legal instrument mentioned with family or friends who will be affected by your decisions.

Durable Power of Attorney
Acquire a durable power of attorney; give the grantee a copy. Write your own, to suit your needs. Retain the original.

“Durable” does not mean it is viable after death. The grantee cannot take any new actions in your name, only clear up old ones executed prior to your death.

Investigate the powers this legal instrument conveys before you sign. Relationships do change, when they do, your legal arrangements must to be revised to cover the new situation and the old one destroyed.

Living Will
Do you want to be kept alive by machines while the courts fight over your remains?

Do you want to be an organ donor? Some states make provisions for this procedure on the back of your driver’s license. Kentucky is one.

Do you prefer cremation or a green burial?

A living will is a painless procedure and simple to execute. Consider it after a power of attorney.

Wills or Trusts
At this point you should consider your assets and how they will be distributed after your demise. Be careful how you structure your bequests.

If you have children who are underage, who will assume guardianship?

How will the proceeds from your assets benefit them to last long enough to pay for their rearing and education?

These are two examples of questions that need to be answered, but there are many others.

This is where you should sit down with an attorney and plan for a future when you are not around to manage for your loved ones. Under all circumstances, make sure all provisions are clearly spelled out.

Provide a specific numerical value for trust funds to be paid to the executor for their services. For many people a trust is a much wiser document than a simple will. Some forms of trusts avoid the probate court and avoid the draining of the estate by inheritance taxes, court fees, and administrator’s gratuities.

Whatever you choose remember the document is a living instrument and must be updated to reflect changes in all your personal and professional life.

Nash Black’s award nominated book is Writing as a Small Business. Their current novel is Sandprints of Death and is available at by clicking here. Both are available as Kindle editions.

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  1. This is something we all must come to terms with and have ready. My son died two years ago and that is not what I had expected. It has taken months to straighten things out. Even now things still pop up that needs to be taken care of. Thank You for posting this.

  2. This is great information and very useful. It is is something that we all face. I would like to comment on Nash Black’s accomplishments. It is amazing to see the growth in their talent from one book to another. “Sandprints of Death” is a great mystery. They skillfully take you around one turn after another. You get involved with the brothers and other characters that move you through the pages. These are real people in a bad situation that you might know. I have one question of the author. How much do you feel that your trip to the area influenced your excellent description of barrier islands? I’ll check back after lunch. Piper Rena Jordan, Ruth Thompson

  3. So much easier when it's in a mystery novel, huh...? Sigh. Thanks for the important post.

  4. I've been the person who does the work after more than one relative or in-law dies. Some are easy, others take years.
    Thank you for your comments.
    Nash Black (Irene)

  5. WeaverofTales' question. Yove read dscriptions of the rube seeing NY for the first time. This was us on the barrier islands. Used three cameras and kept a detailed daily diary of every thing we saw and experienced.
    We hope to go back, but not in January.
    Nash Black (Irene)

  6. This is all good information for you poor folks who are going to die ... I, however, don't plan to join your ranks.

  7. Hey, everyone, I'm sorry for the wonky spacing on this post. Blogger has something going on behind the scenes. I'm hoping this isn't part of their Dynamic Views concept. Gross! We're working on getting this fixed at the BRP office.

  8. Everything about my first husband's death was a wreck--the suicide, the emotional detritus, the lack of a will. Yet still it took me 13 years and the fine example of my father, whose affairs were absolutely in order when he died this spring, to get me to do the same. Signed all your recommended docs a month later--what a load off my mind. I highly recommend all readers heed this advice. It's one of the most loving things you can do for your family.

  9. Thanks for stepping up and broaching a subject that we too often ignore. Planning is so important, especially end-of-life issues. Don't make your family have to make the tough decisions about medical care and when to stop what may be hopeless efforts. Emotions are too high when Mom is in ICU on a ventilator and a son or daughter has to say "Yes, turn it off."

  10. Now that I have a child, this issue has become sooo much more important. It's hard, even for a mystery writer used to getting up close and personal with fictional death. The real stuff is always harder.

  11. Thanks,I like to see an area that I am using. Time changes things but there is still something there for me. Piper Rena Jordan Ruth Thompson

  12. I'll try this again.

    Nice article, Irene. Well stated. I think I have all those bases covered. I'm wondering about having a big throwaway party to get rid of the detritus of a lifetime. What do you think?

  13. Real life is harder to take than fiction. I'd thought about using a few fiction titles for examples, but your comments get to the heart of the problem for those who are left behind.
    It is the most loving gift you can bestow on those who love you.
    Nash Black (Irene)

  14. Dac, I'd say invite me, but at our age it would just add to the stuff I already have too much of.
    Packratism is a disease.
    Nash Black (Irene)

  15. Irene, thanks for the information. As much as we hate to admit it, it will definitely be useful at some point in our lives.


  16. Wow. What a great and informative post. I really like Nash Black's writing, compelling, and character driven. And the covers of the books are sensational!
    Thanks so much for sharing this information.
    Linda Kupecek


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