protecting your literary estate

In this blog post, Neil Gaiman says:

Writers put off making wills (well, human beings put off making wills, and most writers are probably human beings). Some of us think it’s self-aggrandising or foolish to pretend that anyone would be interested in their books or creations after they’re dead. Others secretly believe we’re going to live forever and that making a will would mean letting Death in a crack.

Others make wills, but don’t think to take into account what happens to our literary estate as a separate thing from the disposition of our second-best beds, which means unqualified or uninterested relatives can find themselves in control of everything the author’s written. Some of us are just cheap.

All this bothered me, and still bothers me.

Well, now that he mentioned it, it bothered me, too. Mr. Gaiman attached a downloadable PDF file of a sample will that authors (especially lazy authors) can use, but the template is only “appropriate for the US”.

So I asked Tin Lao, a lawyer friend (who is also a brilliant poet and fictionist), about the options for protecting the literary estates of Filipino authors.

She says, and I quote:

Hi, E!

Holographic wills are allowed in the Philippines. The law here requires merely that it is handwritten, signed, and dated.

The other option is a notarized will (called a “notarial will”). As far as I can remember, in this case:

1. The maker must sign this in the presence of three/more credible (with capacity, meaning, adult, in full possession of capacity) witnesses.

2. All of them must be in the same place, all must see the act of signing at the same time.

3. Each page must be signed on the left margin and his witnesses in each other’s presence.

4. The last page, must be signed on the appropriate blanks for the maker and each witness.

5. Each page of the will must be numbered placed on the upper part of each page.

6. There is an attestation clause in a specified form not found in the form signed by the witnesses.

7. It must be acknowledged before a notary by the maker and his/her witnesses.

Should also note that there are compulsory heirs in the Philippines. (Legitimate children/descendants, legitimate parents/ascendants, ‘illegitimate’ parents, spouse, illegitimate children/descendants). Meaning, the will will only govern those properties in excess of what these heirs can inherit under Phil. law (usually, half the value of the property of the deceased) – this is called the “free portion”. The other half (the reserved portion) is called the “legitime” of the compulsory heirs.

In other words, yes, by all means, you can copy this will in your own handwriting, but sign and date it. It can be considered a holographic will. The formal requisites for a notarized will are more stringent in the Philippines though.

So there!

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