From our “Ask a Question” mailbag: My friend created a website with valuable information. He died unexpectedly and it seems that his executor is allowing his hosting account to lapse. Could the executor access this information and sell it for the estate?
The ownership of the website, the data thereon, and the ability of the Executor to gather and use or sell that date will depend on the agreement your friend signed with the host. The Executor has the power to ask questions about the site and gather information about the site. This can be a slow and laborious process if your friend did not leave information about accessing the account.
As a regular practice, we help our clients by sending out three times a year a summary of the location of all assets and information about accessing that data. This makes the Executor’s job much easier and much less expensive. It could be that your friend named an Executor who is unfamiliar with websites and has decided to abandon the site. This could be a problem for the Executor, as should the heirs prove to a court that the Executor allowed a valuable asset to be wasted, the courts could force the Executor to pay for the loss out of the Executor’s own funds.
If you have ownership over a website which you believe should continue after your death or should be sold at your death, it is important to name an Executor who understands the asset and can comprehend its value and the process by which it can be sold.
If you have any other questions about Websites and Estate Planning, feel free to contact our office to speak with one of our Estate Planning Lawyers for a free consultation.