I have a friend who is a published author. She had someone create a website for her in about 2006.
That web designer took care of the hosting and domain registration matters.
The designer flaked out and let the domain name expire and my friend had no knowledge of such. Her domain name was her real (not a pen name) first and last name dot com. Her website was active for at least five years. The Wayback Machine has two captures - both home pages, one from 2008 and one from 2011.
The person that now owns the name wants $2000 for it.
My friend has hired an attorney and has filed a case in small claims court. The defendant did not appear for the first hearing date. Another date has been set.
Under these circumstances, what are the chances that my friend can get her name back at a more reasonable price than $2000?
Sounds as if it depends on your local courts. Some places would have issued a default judgement after the first no-show.
Can't help but wonder if she's going to end up paying $2000 to the lawyer instead of to the site owner. After all, the whole point of small claims is that you don't need a lawyer. (I looked it up once. In a surprising number of states you're actually allowed to have one. Speaking in court, that is, not just advising behind the scenes.)
Moral: Keep the registration in your own name and keep your contact info up-to-date. If it has to be someone else's job, make sure you have a written contract with penalties spelled out.
Then again, she could wait around and grab her-own-name dot name if & when it becomes available.