I wrote a will

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Comments: 5   (latest 10 hours later)

Tagged: will, law, inheritance, death, nolo, john m ford, the westing game

Today I went to game night (yeah, we all nose-tested first) and the first game I pulled out was "Who wants to witness Zarf's will?"

Don't worry; I'm in rude good health and expect to continue doing stuff for another thirty or forty years. I wrote a will anyway because it's a good idea. You know the story of John M. Ford, right? Wrote a will but never got it witnessed, so his works disappeared for almost fifteen years. (His family and his editors finally sorted it out in 2019.)

I don't want that to happen to me.

Really, I should have done a will ten years ago. Or longer. I put it off because it's boring. Of course it's boring! But look, I'm in my fifties and there's plagues out there. You never know. (Also, I co-own a house now. You don't want to leave real estate flapping in the wind.)

No, I did not leave all my riches to the winner of a baroque puzzle treasure hunt. That's fun in stories but it turns out it's a hassle in real life. I just named some beneficiaries.

Here's the part you might care about:

I leave the copyrights of all my work and all other intellectual property, as well as [sum of money], to the nonprofit organization Interactive Fiction Technology Foundation or, if such beneficiary does not survive me, to the nonprofit organization Internet Archive.

There's also a request to put the whole pile under a Creative Commons license. The money is intended to help keep my web sites running. (It's not a huge sum; they're not expensive web sites.)

The request isn't part of the will, by the way. You don't want to go messing up the legal document with conditionals and requirements. I wrote a separate letter to IFTF describing my wishes for my bequest. It's not legally binding because, like, I'll be dead and they'll own it. That's how wills work! But "What would Zarf have wanted us to do with all this?" is an answerable question.

(Note: This blog post is not my will. I may amend my will in the future. Stuff happens.)

So do you want to write your will now? You should.

I did mine off of Nolo.com's Quick & Legal Will Book. This is simple and cheap. It's not meant for people with complicated estates or legal hassles. But if you are an ordinary sort of person who owns some stuff, and you don't have a lawyer who you talk to regularly about said stuff, this book will be fine.

(It's also not meant for people who live in Louisiana or the US territories. They have weird laws. The other 49 states and DC are on a common framework, so the book covers all of them.)

Nolo.com has a bunch more resources for estate planning, including a Quicken-based "WillMaker". I didn't use that. I just bought the book and downloaded the template forms. (Those come free with the book.)

The forms themselves were really very simple. My will is four pages and most of that is boilerplate. You make a list of stuff and say who gets it. You say who gets all the stuff not listed above. You say whether you're married and/or have kids. (There's extra questions about kids.) Then you name an executor, who will be in charge of handing all the stuff out if and when. The whole process took me about half an hour.

(Note: This blog post is not legal advice either. Read through the book before you tackle the forms. That took longer than half an hour, but not too much longer.) (I was able to skip all the chapters about kids, which simplified things.)

That's it! This is your reminder to think about this stuff. Have a nice day.

Who or why or when or whether, You and I shall dance together. -- (The banner on a mural whereon Death is the dancing-master: from Aspects, John M. Ford.)

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