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The Legacy Kit

An Introduction to the Legacy Kit

The SFWA Legacy Kit does not, and is not intended to, constitute legal advice; instead, all information, content, and materials available in this guide are for general informational purposes only.

We know what you’re thinking. As soon as you saw that scary word—legacy—your brain turned left at Albuquerque and kept going.

  • “I’m too young to die!”[1]
  • “I’ll think about that tomorrow, because tomorrow is another day.”[2]
  • “Not now, Elaine. Not now! Can’t you see I’m talking to the Man?”[3]

The Legacy Kit was created in honor of Bud Webster, a driving force behind the SFWA Estates Program. It was conceived as a way of helping SFWA members prepare their estates before becoming eligible to have their names added to the SFWA Estate Project.

It turns out you often need the same documents and directives for the good things in life as well as the bad. For instance, “the Man” mentioned above may be a production company hoping to turn your New York Times bestseller into a blockbuster film or TV series. They’ll want to see your contracts and establish the status of your rights to the work and all its characters. This kit will help.

Say you snag that visiting professorship across the country or overseas. The people who’ll be taking care of your pets and property will need everything from deeds and leases to limited power of attorney. Protecting your legacy doesn’t have to mean a grim end; it can just be practical.

Meanwhile, the risk of calamity is always there. What if you need to travel for a family emergency? What if you’re incapacitated, unable to express your wishes to your caregivers?

What if you die? Without a will, the state where you live decides how your assets will be distributed among your relatives—your legal relatives. In other words, the only people who will be able to inherit your real and intellectual property are your legal spouse, your children by birth and adoption, and your blood relations. Life partners, significant others, and trusted friends receive nothing if you’re unprepared. Nor will you have a say in the amount your legal relations receive—that’s set by the state based on a state-determined order of precedence, which may have nothing to do with your actual relationships. The process of resolving an interstate estate costs much more and takes much longer without a will. Everyone loses except your state department of taxation.

Unless you prepare your legacy ahead of time.

The U.S. Armed Forces long ago recognized that their personnel needed to be prepared for all these eventualities, good and bad. All individuals on deployment or hardship (i.e., family separation) tours are required to have a family emergency plan that includes most of the documents writers need to manage their estates. Think of this as our version of the same.

The Legacy Kit is an online guide that provides our members with a checklist of documents, sample inventories and tables, a layman’s glossary of important terms, and a variety of other resources to help them create their own plans. We hope it will enhance your successes, help you manage the business of life, and aid your survivors while you can still call them your friends and loved ones. There is a PDF version available, which includes this introduction and all the sections of the kit, should you prefer to download it.

Here’s what’s included:

As befits a writers’ organization, there are also stories. Lots of stories. For additional ones that we do not include in this guide, we highly recommend Kristine Kathryn Rusch’s Estate Planning Series and M. L. Buchman’s Estate Planning for Authors. They are filled with stories—success stories and cautionary tales about estate planning that are wilder than anything most of us science fiction and fantasy creators could imagine.

We realize this is a lot to take in. The good news is that the Legacy Kit is a lot like a novel or short story. You don’t have to put everything together at once. It’s a process, one that works better over time. And you don’t have to go it alone. There are writers like Ms. Rusch and Mr. Buchman who have forged the path, and a host of professionals—attorneys, agents, and certified public accountants—who can help you along the way. Wherever possible, we have provided links to outside resources, and we will update the list as we discover more.

Also, anytime the jargon seems overwhelming, hop on over to our Layman’s Glossary of Legal Terms for help.

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[1] Every Bugs Bunny cartoon ever produced.

[2] Gone with the Wind (1939)

[3] Arsenic and Old Lace (1944)