There was great excitement this week following the announcement that the author Harper Lee is to publish a second novel, decades after the publication of her well-loved first book, “To Kill a Mockingbird”.
The initial excitement was followed by a suggestion that some pressure may have been put on Ms Lee to publish the Mockingbird sequel. This speculation arose from the fact that Ms Lee is elderly and suffers from some health problems and, in addition, her sister, who looked after her affairs, died at the end of last year.
The suggestion of any pressure in this case is denied by the author’s agent and publisher, but it should be borne in mind that for other people old age and ill health can sometimes lead to an older person becoming vulnerable. Ms Lee’s elder sister acted on her behalf until her death and, in England and Wales, Lasting Powers of Attorney can be used to give authority to someone you trust to deal with your affairs, even if for most of us those affairs do not involve the publication of a likely bestseller.
If Ms Lee lived in England and Wales she could also consider appointing a literary executor in her Will who would make all the decisions as to how her work is exploited after her death. If you are in a similar position this is well worth considering but, for all of us, the choice of executors is a crucial one given the powers that they have to deal with your estate after your death.
The announcement was a great surprise to book lovers, given Ms Lee’s strenuous avoidance of media attention for many years, and we can all look forward to enjoying Ms Lee’s new work in the summer.