Even experienced domainers may not know the name Igal Lichtman. The legendary domain investor was better known by his business name, Mrs Jello.
Over a career spanning decades, Lichtman acquired a vast portfolio of investment domains, many worth tens of thousands of dollars. But it was what happened after Lichtman passed away in 2013 that should serve as a cautionary tale to all domainers.
What Happens to Your Domains When You Die?
What happens to your domains when you die depends on how you prepare for the inevitable.
In Lichtman’s case, there wasn’t nearly enough preparation, if any. When Lichtman died from cancer complications in February of 2013, his family was left with the difficult task of trying to organize and gain access to his vast portfolio of investment domains.
But as his family learned, Lichtman hadn’t created a clear path for his beneficiaries to take ownership of his domains. As they expired, they were auctioned off by their registrars.
The same month that Lichtman died, Vodka.net sold for $20,000. Penis.net was auctioned for $5,015. And in one of the biggest sales from Lichtman’s portfolio, Vegans.com sold for $48,000.
This is all money that could have gone to Lichtman’s beneficiaries. They could have kept those domains as investments, or sold them for an immediate payout for Lichtman’s family. Instead, those big payouts went to the domain registrars and auction companies that facilitated the sales.
What Happened To Igal Lichtman Could Happen To Anyone
Igal Lichtman made a career out of investing in domains, so his death (and the subsequent loss of his entire portfolio) made waves in the domainer world.
But this isn’t something that only happens to professional domain investors.
Jane Both, a lifelong entrepreneur from Milford, Pennsylvania, was just 50 years old when she died suddenly while walking her dogs in her neighborhood in late March of 2017. Both was involved in all kinds of business ventures, including Streamline Management of Port Jervis, a home inspection service. But she was also savvy when it came to domain investing. In 2013, long before many people were considering the potential of blockchain domains, Both was buying as many as she could find.
Her portfolio eventually consisted of more than 100 domains containing the “blockchain” keyword — including appealing domains like BlockchainManagement.com, BlockchainAssets.com, BlockchainFinance.com, BlockchainPro.com, and BlockchainTools.com.
But you can probably guess where this story is going. Like Lichtman, Both didn’t plan for what would happen to her domains after her death. And so, in 2018, they began to expire and head to auction.
Of the more than 100 blockchain domains Both owned, many sold for thousands of dollars, and many more for hundreds. In all, her beneficiaries missed out on tens of thousands of dollars that resulted from the sale of all of Both’s domains — money that should have gone to her loved ones, but instead went to registrars and auction companies.
It’s Time to Treat Domains Like Any Other Wealth Asset
These stories make one thing clear: Whether you purchase domains for the express purpose of investing in them, or just own the domains for your business or personal websites, domains can be valuable and sentimental, and they should be treated like any other digital wealth asset. In the digital age, anyone who owns a domain needs a plan in place for someone to take ownership of and manage it after their death.
Most domain registrars have a process in place for when an account owner dies. For example, GoDaddy, one of the world’s largest domain registrars, outlines steps for what to do and how to gain access to domains or accounts after their owner’s death.
But even when a registrar has a process in place, it can be complicated for beneficiaries who aren’t well versed in domains and digital assets. And then there’s the question of whether your beneficiaries will even know what domains you own, whether they have value, and how to seek access to them.
You can’t leave this process to chance, or just assume that your beneficiaries will know to follow your registrar’s steps to take control of your domains. You have to be proactive to protect your domain investments.
How to Protect Your Domain Investments: Step By Step
Ready to make sure your domains are protected in case of the worst? Here’s what you need to do.
Create a Digital Inventory
We rarely think about how many online accounts we create all the time. From social media, to streaming sites and Spotify, ecommerce sites, food delivery, and, of course, our domains — there are tons of sites that have our personal information and, oftentimes, payment information stored. Making sure your beneficiaries have access to all these accounts will greatly simplify the process of organizing and closing them after your death.
That’s why, for domains, but also all other digital assets and accounts, everyone should have a digital inventory. This should include every account you own, passwords, associated phone numbers and email addresses, and, for any accounts that require payments or renewals, the dates and costs for renewal.
Your digital inventory should be available both online and offline (like in a safe deposit box that a trusted beneficiary can access) and should be updated regularly.
Write a Digital Will
If you’re a sole trader or proprietor, your business assets, including domains and other digital assets, are legally indistinguishable from you, and would be distributed according to your will.
However, it’s becoming a more common practice for people who hold a variety of digital wealth assets to write a digital will, specifying exactly how they want things like their domains passed on after their death. It’s also becoming a more common practice to name a digital executor for that will — someone who has the knowledge and experience to ensure that digital assets are transferred safely and correctly.
Use a Portfolio Manager That’s Made for the Digital Age
It’s long been standard practice to use a portfolio manager for tracking net worth and organizing investments in one place — a good practice that makes them easier to distribute after you’re gone.
But as we move forward in the digital age, wealth and investments are becoming more complex, and most traditional portfolio managers aren’t up to the task of tracking digital wealth like crypto wallets, multi-currency accounts, and domains. That’s why you need a portfolio manager that’s made for the digital age. That’s why you need Kubera.
Kubera allow you to track all your wealth assets — from the traditional like stocks, bonds, bank accounts, cash, and real estate to the modern like collectibles, crypto exchanges and wallets, domains, and other digital assets.
In fact, when you add web domains to Kubera, the leading asset experts with which we integrate (like EstiBot) feed your dashboard with real-time market data so you always know the value of your domains.
In addition, Kubera also ensures the safe and secure transfer of all your wealth to a beneficiary in the event something happens to you. You can even set a beneficiary to receive access to your portfolio automatically if your account becomes inactive for a set period of time.
Kubera is the only way to manage and protect your wealth in the digital age. Ready to see for yourself? Sign Up today to take the free trial.