Author Estate Planning: Who Will You Trust?

Last week’s post talked a little about wills in the author estate plan. Today, we’ll look at the second common estate planning device: the trust.

In many places, having a trust allows your estate to bypass probate. This, in turn, usually means a shorter administration period and lower costs.

Trusts also allow for greater flexibility in distribution of the author’s assets, including intellectual property rights like copyright.

Unlike a will, which can often be written without the assistance of counsel, trusts generally require an attorney’s aid. However, the extra cost of drafting a trust is usually more than offset by the savings on probate costs.

Most people (authors included) will create a revocable trust, meaning a trust which can be altered or terminated during the lifetime of the person who created it (the “settlor,” in legalese). This allows for greater flexibility, and enables the author to change the beneficiaries at will or as needs change.

Trusts are administered by a “Trustee.” During the settlor/author’s life, he or she normally serves as trustee, and designates (in the trust documents) who will serve as trustee after his or her death. Like all other provisions of a revocable trust, this is subject to change during the settlor’s lifetime, but only if the settlor chooses to make a change.

While trusts are often the most flexible way to hold and administer copyrights upon an author’s death, estate planning is a personal process and each author needs to investigate all the options to find the one which best suits the author’s individual needs.

Join me next week, when we’ll look at the actual language authors can use to establish who will own copyrights and other intellectual property rights that continue after the author’s death.

Have you got a trust? A will? Are you just starting the estate planning process? Have questions? Hop into the comments: I’d love to hear from you.