Brandon’s Note: I first started writing this post April 22, 2007.  It’s been 4 years in the making…For everything that has changed, I’ll put a “2011 change:” so you can see progress from 2007 till now.

Death isn’t something anyone likes to talk about, but is something we must all plan for. So I ask you, what happens to all of your websites when you die?

What happens to the income and value of your websites and domains?

My wife and I are having our first child in less than 3 weeks (2011 change: My daughter will be 4 years old this week). I have life insurance so they’ll be taken care of, but what happens to my websites? What happens to the income that I make every month through my business, Adsense, Amazon, Azoogle, ShareASale, etc?

I currently have almost 100 websites (2011 change: over 350 sites now!), about 30 (2011 change: now about 100) of them make money every month. Some make money every quarter, and almost all of them make something yearly.

If I do nothing, my income will slow down, my wife will still receive checks (or deposits) for some future months, but eventually my domains will expire, my landing pages will become outdated and the link codes for my affiliates will change. Then the money will be gone, and someone will pick up some sweet domains when they expire.

You’ve put in thousands of hours into your web sites and now, nothing. Horrible right?

There are a few things you can do to stop this from happening, I do all of them to some extent:

1. Trust a friend with your account info.

If you have a friend in the business, he/she would be a great asset in your planning. I have such a friend. This friend isn’t as experienced as I am, but would be able to renew my domains and hopefully either keep them going or sell them off for what they are worth. Either way, my wife doesn’t lose out on all my hard work.

I have encouraged my friend to sell all of my websites one by one on at various places like such as Flippa, forums, or a brokering service. I have made it very clear that selling one by one will take a lot of time, but will also bring in a lot more money than a bulk sale will. If he were to try to sell all of the sites as a group, the amount of people with that much money would hinder the total amount of the sale.

This plan could very easily backfire on you.. Remember, your friend has access to your FTP, affiliate accounts, maybe even bank accounts. A lot of power. The only way to now remove this power is to change all of your passwords. For me, changing all of my passwords would take a long time.

There is one way to avoid this however, tell your friend you have a file or printout physically located in your house or safe deposit box in the event of your unexpected death. Then he can get the file that has everything he will need. This will give him access to all of your accounts, but only after your death.

2. Write down everything and hope your spouse can remember what to do.

This is something else that I have done. I’ve written down all of my account info including passwords, direct deposit information and how the accounts should be managed. My wife however won’t be able to change anything on my websites, she just doesn’t know how. So even though she has this information the income will dwindle if this is my only after-death strategy.

The other option in this strategy is to create very detailed plans of what to do with your website(s) and clearly write down how to accomplish these things.

For me, I would write something like, “Open Cyberduck FTP. It is the little yellow duck in the dock at the bottom of the screen.” With instructions like this, my wife would be able to follow along. However, writing these instructions down would take a long time, and I doubt my wife would want to maintain my websites.

3. Sell everything now for market value.

I know you didn’t build your website portfolio just to sell it now. You plan to keep it, make more money from it, and maybe someday sell it to Yahoo! (2001 note: Google’s probably the better buyer now) for a million bucks. Isn’t that everyone’s exit strategy?

Using this method you might be able to sell your websites and just keep a limited amount of “inventory” on hand. Then, if you die unexpectedly you have less income to worry about and already have money in the bank from the sales of most of your portfolio. I have contemplated this idea. Should I sell 75 of my websites and just keep a portion of them? Should I sell 99 and just keep one?

If you go this route, your after-death losses will be minimal, but your future potential will also be seriously hindered. There is an increasing amount of value in domains and websites that are old. As Jim Boykin says, “I like ’em old.” If you don’t consider the value of your domain age, you’re losing money on every sale.

Obviously these are not the only methods that you can use to play for your untimely death, but hopefully they’ll get you thinking about that unfortunate day and planning ahead for the sake of those you care about.

2011 change: There are now a few companies that provide a service for distributing your information after your untimely death.  A few of the popular ones are Entrustet, DataInherit, and AssetLock. This will not help with handling your website business, but will distribute the information to the correct people.

Do you have any additional ways to plan for that unfortunate day? Would you be interested in a service that handled your websites after your death?