It has been quite some time since I wrote about domain names and estate planning. People who own valuable domain names or a valuable domain portfolio need to take estate planning seriously. Nobody can cheat death, and ensuring that you have a plan in place can save your loved ones or friends a considerable amount of time and potentially some money.
Recently on NamePros, attorney John Berryhill responded to a thread about domain names and wills. His insight is worth a read when you have a moment, and I think it is a topic to which serious investors need to allocate some time.
When it comes to domain names, it is probably not as simple as walking into an estate planning lawyer’s office and adding a line or two to a will or estate plan. Domain names are treated differently in different jurisdictions. Companies and individuals are also treated differently. Someone who operates a business will likely have a different conversation than an individual who owns a portfolio of domain names in his or her own name.
If you own a portfolio of valuable domain names – or even if you own just a few valuable domain names – my recommendation is to work with a local estate planning lawyer to see what they know and understand about domain names and intellectual property law. Assuming there may be some gaps with their knowledge and domain names, connect with a lawyer that specializes in domain names to help fill in these gaps. Get an estate plan set up that takes your domain names into consideration.
I took a few actions beyond estate planning. I created a business continuity plan that my family and legal team can use as a guideline to continue operating my businesses. I drafted a list of account managers at various domain name registrars, contacts at industry companies, industry lawyers I work with and trust, and contact information for my bankers. My wife and counsel know the small group of people I trust, but I have a few names of trusted associates listed with their contact information to make things easier and keep any vultures at bay. I outlined a variety of ongoing deals as well. Essentially, this regularly updated continuity plan can be used to help operate my business as smoothly as possible in the event something happens to me.
Nobody wants to think about death, but it is important to have business affairs in order. Domain name investing is different than other types of investments, and if a domain name business or domain name portfolio is valuable, steps should be taken to manage it in the event of an untimely death.