Home » Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Business of Writing » Prince, Estates, and The Future

Prince, Estates, and The Future

29 April 2016

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Last week, the death of Prince hit me hard. I was in the middle of teaching the Romance Workshop, here on the Oregon Coast, and working my tail off. A satellite radio station that I always listen to had breaking news—something they never do (which is why I listen to them)—that I could barely hear. I heard “prince” and “died” and “young” so I’m wondering Prince Harry? Prince William? I pick up my iPad across the kitchen to look up the news, and that’s when I see it.

. . . .

I was thinking maybe it was the exhaustion from the workshop, but no. I realized it was because Prince had a huge influence on the way I go about handling business. Doing my work. Taking control of my contracts, my royalties, my art.

I immediately planned an entire blog post on Prince and business.

. . . .

I was still on the fence about how I was going to approach the blog—Prince, control, business, or thinking long-term and contracts—until late yesterday, when I saw on the news that Prince did not have a will.

I sighed. I was afraid of that.

. . . .

Why would someone as smart as Prince about business make this kind of mistake? A million reasons, some of them psychological. None of us believe we’re going to die, not really. And Prince had no children to leave things to. He was famously private, and putting together a will that would handle an estate of that size, with all of its future earnings potential, means that lawyers, financial advisors, and estate planners would have been combing through every aspect of his life, trying to figure out what would happen past his death.

. . . .

Like so many of us, Prince handled his own business. He hired help, of course. Otherwise continuing to be creative would have been impossible. Sometimes he partnered with a record label, sometimes he did not. But he had his fingers in everything.

He had his hands full. Estate planning was probably something he figured he could do later. Of course, later never came.

I’m sure that a lot of projects died with him. A lot has been written just this week about all the music he kept in a temperature-controlled vault at his Paisley Park estate. Speculation about what’s in that vault is rife, but Prince was clear about it. He believed the music in that vault was raw, not ready to be released, for whatever reason. He made conflicting statements about what he wanted done with that music—burned upon his death or eventually released, once it was ready.

It’s not ever going to be ready now, not the way that Prince envisioned, anyway. It’ll be up to whoever ends up managing the estate.

. . . .

I know how much work it will be to manage my estate. A friend of mine, with maybe 20 or so novels to his name, wrote an eight-page single-spaced sheet of instructions to the person who will inherit under his will, explaining terms (like intellectual property) and where the heir can look for more information on things like copyright.

In the middle of this document, which he said I can crib from when I get back to my estate posts, he writes that he has attached a spreadsheet which is a master file to all of his work, including the name of every work published, the ISBN of the print publications, date of publication, what channels the work has been published in, and whether or not the work has been registered with the copyright office. He added a separate file of all his passwords, and then a map on how to find the files (and their backups) for everything he’s ever written.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

PG says that, while there is lots of material about self-publishing, marketing, promoting, pricing, getting an agent, getting a publisher, etc., etc., Kris is the only writer he knows who has shared thoughts about what can/should happen when an author dies.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, The Business of Writing

10 Comments to “Prince, Estates, and The Future”

  1. I blogged about this years ago, when working on my will.


    It is VERY important for writers to sort this stuff out. Heirs likely won’t have a clue.

  2. Joe’s post from 2013 was and is wonderful. I read it then and will reread it now. Thanks again to him for writing it. And to Kris for diving in to give us a fresh take.

    There are as many answers to the wills and estate question as their are circumstances in authors’ lives. But there are patterns to be seen and themes worth following.

  3. Neil Gaiman has tackled this, too.

  4. P.G.

    Prince’s music never did a thing for me-just a taste thing, but I had heard early on that he was a decent, maybe intense geezer who was essentially kind-which is all I require in humans.

    He did help and nurture a whole lot of people in the music biz. I thought, “Nothing compares 2 U,” by Sinead O’Connor was not much short of astounding.

    What beats me up is that a fellow obviously so smart and wealthy didn’t have someone nagging his butt day and night about leaving the stuff to the people he cared about. Rather than having ratfest family feuds for years and no clear resolution.

    FWIW-I loved his abilities, (bit of a showboat,) he was as amazing as Jimi Hendrix-and I wish I could play like that. Maybe that’s it-the 10,000 hours does yer head in for the other important stuff.


  5. Prince’s death got me to email a friend to ask if he would be my literary executor. My family doesn’t know publishing at all. Now I just need to scrape together the money for a will.

    • I’m working on it now, too. My big problem is no natural heirs and a husband reluctant to confront mortality.

      I found a way to galvanize the husband — if we die intestate, it will all go to my father’s adopted children from a second marriage. Without going into details, that’s a real motivator… Anything but that. 🙂

  6. I wrote about it as well, if only to link to Gaiman’s post.

    My wife and I got it done as a result. We took Gaiman’s draft and ran it by our lawyer, who tweaked it to conform to Pennsylvania’s laws.

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