Estate planning is a very important process for everyone, especially small business owners. Creating a thoughtful business succession plan to accommodate all aspects of your business is vital, including and possibly most importantly the business’s digital footprint. For some businesses, their domain may be a very high-value asset of the business and if the domain is lost, it could be gone forever, or be very expensive to get back. Allison Kierman of Kierman Law is our guest blogger this week to explain what to do should you find yourself in the unfortunate position of trying to gain access to the digital side of a business.
How to Gain Access to Website Domains and Back End Accounts After an Owner’s Death
When it comes to administering a loved one’s estate, the big-ticket items generally take priority – the home, life insurance, and bank accounts. These assets are important, but estate administration also needs to include business and personal websites.
However, it can be complicated trying to figure out how to take over a deceased’s website. If you are trying to gain control to a loved one’s digital assets after their death, there are some important steps you will need to take.
First, in order to access to a website domain and back end account after its owner’s death, you must be the Estate Administrator (i.e., Personal Representative, Trustee, or Executor) or the next of kin of the deceased.
Second, gaining access may vary slightly depending on the domain and website host, but generally you will need to submit the following documentation to the domain registrar and/or website host:
- A completed Change Request Form (may vary depending on the host) with the Estate Administrator listed as the requestor.
- Legal documentation listing the name of the Estate Administrator, such as a Will, Trust, or Court Order.
- Death Certificate of the deceased.
- Photo identification for the Estate Administrator.
Third, if a business is listed as the registrant/account holder, you will also need to provide a copy of the business ID. Examples of acceptable government-issued business identification are:
- A copy of a government-issued business license from a local, county, state or federal agency.
- For U.S.-based businesses, your domain/website host may accept an IRS “Determination Letter.” You may request a copy of this letter by contacting the IRS at 1-800-829-4933.
Many websites these days have financial implications, both in terms of the profit they make and sales they generate, as well as the ongoing costs of maintenance. Make sure you understand the value of your loved one’s website and take control of it.