Tuesday, May 3, 2016

In Case of Emergency

There is no warning bell before your ride on the rollercoaster of life takes a dramatic turn or ends abruptly.

No one likes to ponder their disability or demise, but I believe in being prepared.

As a writer there are certain steps you should take now, just in case.

1. Firstly, you need a "person" or "persons" you can trust to assist. It may be your spouse, relative, child, best friend, or someone else to take care of all the nitty-gritty details, preferably someone organized and efficient. Make sure several people (attorney, accountant, business manager, family friend) know where to find your important documents in case there are multiple casualties.

2. Appoint someone to take charge of the business end of your writing and give them legal power of attorney to do so in case you are disabled temporarily or permanently.

3. Draw up a will. Copyrights are intellectual property and are treated the same as any other personal property. They can be left to an heir via a will. Designate the person you want to receive future royalties and who will own the copyrights. If you self-publish, make it clear whether you want your work taken down or to continue to be for sale and where. Make sure they want to take on the responsibility. Leave thorough instructions on how to do so.

For more information visit NewMediaRights.org, or the US copyright office.

What if your publisher dies or sells his business?

What about rights to electronic publications?

Can you stop film or other adaptations?

4. Create a list of important publishing contacts, their phone numbers, emails, etc., that need to be notified or dealt with. Keep a master list regarding your submissions, contracts, etc., with copies of the works involved and make sure your person knows where to find them.

5. Create a master list of all of your published titles and anthology pieces, the venues, ISBN numbers, and whether they are currently on promotion. Provide contact information and steps that need to be taken.

6. Make a list of business banking account numbers, credit card numbers, and the location of physical checks and bank statements. Give someone access to the bank account where the direct deposits are made. It is important for your trusted person to have account sign-ons and passwords so they can change the bank account direct deposit information if necessary.

7. Make sure your articles of corporation, sales tax data, accounting paperwork, tax returns, etc., are easily available.  Provide a list of accounts, contacts, and instructions about what needs to be done when. Does a corporation need to be dissolved? Leave instructions. Do you need to close out your accounts and pay final taxes, etc.? Leave instructions.

8. Do you have a blog or website? Do you want them to continue to be available? Do you want them taken down? Leave instructions as well as sign-ons and passwords to access them and any other useful information. If you have a hosting service, make sure you leave their contact information, especially if your sites and domains are automatically renewed.

9. Make a list of all of your writing-related online accounts (social media, Goodreads, Amazon, etc.) with sign-ons, passwords, and any fees associated with them.

Consider whether you have any writing accounts or memberships that also charge, especially if they automatically renew. Leave contact information for all of them. They will have to be notified.

Note: This is important for everyone, whether you are a writer or not. Someone needs to clean up your web presence and cancel your memberships after you pass. Someone may need to take over for you if you are temporarily sidelined. Make your wishes known as to the accounts you want shut down if you die. If you want any of them to continue, make sure you have someone willing to take on the responsibility.

10. Consider purchasing a special fire-proof lockbox, file cabinet, safe deposit box, or home safe for your important papers and give someone else access (a key, a combination, location information, etc.).

I prepared useful forms for organizing your information (finances, personal information, health information, insurance, business, etc.) for a rare disease website for Stiff Person Syndrome. You can visit the Tin Man site and download the PDF forms for your use.

Expect the unexpected.

Diana Hurwitz is the author of Story Building Blocks: The Four Layers of Conflict, Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict, Story Building Blocks III: The Revision Layers, and the YA adventure series Mythikas Island. Her weekly blog, Game On: Crafting Believable Conflict explores how characters behave and misbehave. Visit DianaHurwitz.com for more information and free writing tools. You can follow her on Facebook and Twitter.


  1. All good stuff, Diana ... unfortunately, the odds of homey following through on any of this are overwhelming ... pretty close to those of me winning the lotto.

  2. Brilliant post, Diana. Gave me a lot to think about. Thank you.

    1. Having to settle up after a parent dies makes you realize the importance of the legal stuff.

  3. Unpleasant topic but the fear of G*d was put in me when a good friend and coworker passed away and she had made no plans. Her Facebook account is still floating as an uneasy reminder of what NOT to do. I have left my passwords and accounts with trusted family. My mom has files on both herself and me. I continually update my accounts and my mom knows where all this information is and she has given me access to hers. Yikes and yikes.

    1. You don't realize the mess until you have to clean one up!

  4. It's a little overwhelming to see all these issues listed in one place...and know I've done about 10% of what needs to be arranged. Thank you for the reminders.

  5. Imagine having your abandoned accounts coopted by hackers!

  6. Neil Gaiman has a sample will for authors on his website:


    Personally, I'd use it as a codicil.

  7. What a great reminder that we all need. Thanks for the resources, Diana.

  8. Excellent information, Diana. This is great kick in the backside for procrastinators like me.

    1. Every time I go under the knife, I leave a list behind of everything that needs to be done if I don't wake up. Morbid, but efficient! I don't want to inconvenience anyone - even in death. :)

  9. I really need to remember to sit down and get this done. *Makes a reminder note, and a back-up reminder note*


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