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|Planning for AdSense after life|
What happens when you are no more?
I'm curious what plans others have made for your website(s) and the use of AdSense on those sites after your death? I haven't found anything in the TOS about transferring an account to heaven, so I guess I can't take it with me.
If I died today, I guess the monthly payments would keep arriving until Google figures out I no longer exist and closes my account.
I'm especially interested in the plans of anyone else in my situation. I'm single, no children (no heirs) and since I'm spending yet another Friday night working on my computer instead of being out on a date, I don't think that circumstance is going to change any time soon.
I've given this quite a bit of thought. It occurred to me several years ago that if I suddenly kicked the bucket, my online business would die with me. Since I make a fair living from this, it seemed like I should make some sort of provision to at least attempt to pass it on to someone. I have no children either. One ex-wife and a couple of ex-girlfriends. Only one who's even halfway computer literate. She'll get the business by default since she's the only one who could even come close to managing it. Fortunately she's the one I'd want to have it anyway.
What I did was create a bunch of txt files. Login URLs, passwords, usernames, etc... The first thing is to get control of the email so that's the main file. Login info to the hosting account and change the forwarders so that all email now goes to her. Once she has control of the email it gets 100% easier. I'm fortunate enough to have really good relationships with several of the affiliate companies I work for. I mean I'm on a first name basis with them, have talked with them on the phone many times. I've already communicated with them in regards to this and they know about her so the transition should be pretty painless, if it ever comes to that, I mean. And I hope it doesn't but just in case. All of these txt files are on a CD that I mailed to her. Trust is crucial here. She's probably the only person in the world I feel comfortable doing this with.
The biggest problem is that my network is fairly complex. I mean there are a hundred things that I do automatically every day. It's routine now. I've gotten so used to it it's second nature. Trying to give someone else instructions on how to maintain the network exactly like I do simply isn't possible. I reread most of what I'd written to her initially and realized that it was overwhelming. There was just waaay too much information and I wound up freaking her out. So I simplified everything. I reduced it all down to what was REALLY important and that boiled down to communication with the affiliate managers. Adsense is only a part of what I do. Lately it's become an even smaller part of what I do because I've been smartpriced almost into oblivion. I don't see any problem with her being able to change payment information though. Account number and routing number. That's all it takes. She has login info to my adsense account. She can change that information and payments will then go to her account instead of mine.
I've been in contact with adsense support on a number of occasions. I've given her those contact names and emails in case she has problems. I don't really see any issues with getting things switched over if it comes to that. I certainly don't plan to die tomorrow but I've definitely given this some thought. I mean what if, right?
Getting everything switched over to her isn't really the problem. I think we've got that covered. The problem will be in maintaining the websites. You just can't put all of that information in a txt file and expect someone to pick up right where you left off. I'm a one-man operation. Over the years I've developed my own ways of doing things. Whether they're technically right or wrong - they work and I've stuck with them. Trying to tell someone how to do this with simple text files simply isn't possible. I mean I've created a friggin' monster that requires my daily attention. If I don't give it daily attention, it suffers. Expecting someone else to pick that up and run with it after I'm gone just isn't feasible. It's a full time job and she's already got a full time job.
The best I can hope for is that she'll at least keep it alive. Earnings will suffer but she should still be able to bring in a fair amount each month just by keeping the sites online. Nobody is going to be able to do this like I can. That's not being conceited. It's a simple statement of fact. The most talented webmaster in the world couldn't step in and take over my network and maintain it in the way that I can. And I'm not a great webmaster either - far from it. It's just that there are so many little things that I do, different ways that I've set things up, everything trial and error over so many years... it's unreasonable to expect someone else to be able to do that perfectly.
Good post farmboy. This has been brought up before but it's worth revisiting because it's an issue all of us face. And BTW it's Friday night and I don't have a date either. Oh well....
Hmmmm. If you sell a site that has AdSense on it, I believe you have to take the AdSense off and the new owner will need to apply to AdSense and put it back if approved for an account. I assume that would work the same if you die and someone else takes over your sites.
As long as my credit card company has a valid card on file, they will keep charging it every month for the hosting accounts, the sites will remain active and thus the AdSense will keep earning. I suppose the first thing someone would need to do is "take over" my hosting accounts and provide a new card, assuming mine would be invalid at some point soon after my death.
I have begun working on a list of passwords, usernames, etc. that I plan to leave in a safe deposit box. But who to leave it to?
I have nieces and nephews that I love very much and have devoted a lot of time to them. But if the current trend holds true, once they reach about 18 they suddenly no longer have time to even stop by Uncle FarmBoy's for a quick visit. To be fair though, sports, school clubs and social activities seem to be the priority for their time as influenced by the parents. That seems to be common among a lot of parents these days.
I'm sure if they knew there was something they could basically plug in and then sit back and earn an income from they would suddenly develop an interest, but that seems to be getting the destination without the journey.
I have set up a corporation or two, so that all of the accounts, agreements, etc., are with the corporation rather than me personally. Spouse and/or kids get the stock when my lights go out.
As for anyone being able to decipher how the thing operates, that's another question.
|Hmmmm. If you sell a site that has AdSense on it, I believe you have to take the AdSense off and the new owner will need to apply to AdSense and put it back if approved for an account. I assume that would work the same if you die and someone else takes over your sites. |
Well, there might be problems. I just assumed you changed the routing number and account number. There's the account name too, which would need to be changed. I've never done this before and it's apparent that I'm not fully up to speed on it.
|As for anyone being able to decipher how the thing operates, that's another question. |
Exactly. That's the thing. How to make sense out of this mishmash I've created.
Make sure your domain names are registered several years into the future.
Everything else becomes moot if an important domain name lapses while your executors are figuring out what to do.
I have give this quite a lot of thought. I think the key may be to have all your accounts. Adsense, Adwords credit cards, hosting etc etc as a business as opposed to an indevidual. That way things don't change to dramaticaly for the accounts when you pass away, the company changes hands, but the company doesnt cease to exist.
We get quite a few emails about this issue, from both publishers and their surviving relatives. Different people choose to deal with the AdSense accounts of deceased publishers in different ways. It's always good to have a plan, but we understand that many people don't.
While I can't offer you a "right" answer to the question, know that the team is extremely sensitive to these situations and will work with publishers and their survivors to make sure everything is resolved as smoothly and comfortably as possible.
That is good to hear ASA!
I bookmarked a thread from 2005 that may be useful to everyone - [webmasterworld.com...]
|It's always good to have a plan, but we understand that many people don't. |
And what would that plan include? Can I go on record as stating who I want to leave my adsense account to? Would an email to adsense support be enough? An email with the name and other pertinent information regarding the person I'm leaving everything to?
It is a good lesson for those who are not married, I guess, your other half should be selected on the conditions of having 'sufficient knowledge on how adsense works' :)
Basic definitions of everything, if you can't afford to lose her/him
|and will work with publishers and their survivors |
No, don't tell me, Google has an uplink to the great Publisher in the sky and I'll be still getting notifications after I'm gone?
There is a need for us to include in our account setup the names and contact details of up to 3 people (A,B and C) in order or priority who can take over our account, here's how it should work:
1- You receive a switch over request from A
(If you get it from B or C, you need to verify with the higher priority contact A first, if no reply move down to B then C)
2- Automatically Google puts all payment on hold
3- Google sends a confirmation email to the original account holder email address, if no reply, send vial mail or express mail a new password.
4- Honor the switch over and process the new contact person's information.
I've done 2 things to keep things running:
a) The text file with full details outlining in plain English what I do everyday and why and how and all the what if cases.
b) Trained my wife to manage the daily work, gave her own small project identical to my own site in content management and she is fully running it right now.
The only thing I am not happy with, is the lack of a company that can fully take care of the technical site details and keep it running hands free after I am gone, the ideal situation is for my loved ones to be responsible only for the content management and money, but "fully managed" services still comes short of what I've been looking for.
|No, don't tell me, Google has an uplink to the great Publisher in the sky and I'll be still getting notifications after I'm gone? |
And they have internet cafes, so you can still post on WebmasterWorld. (wireless I assume)
Brett will have a "dead members" forum, for current past members.
Wonder if hell will be as well connected for the domain parkers? (excuse me, direct navigation people)
[edited by: Khensu at 7:05 pm (utc) on Oct. 28, 2007]
Maybe I'm stating the obvious but if the earnings from your websites (Adsense and others) are significant, they should be specifically mentioned in a will. When someone dies, they leave an "estate". Adsense have absolutely no say in who owns the "estate" after I die. My will and the lawyers determine who owns that estate?
So, number one priority is to name a beneficiary of the website earnings in your will. Specifically ask that they have control of the websites and leave them enough details to enable them to operate the websites and collect the earnings.
Does that sound right for the first priority?
Maybe a bit of a pessimistic post subject but it's one the I am extremely glad is being discussed. I do have kids, I have two ex-wives and a current partner. The thought of them fighting out the ownersip of the websites on my death is absolutely horrific. Families break up over subjects like this. It would be great if we, at Webmasterworld, could come up with a recommended set of actions to avoid conflict after our deaths. After two divorces, the last thing I want is for any lawyer to benefit from my website income.
|Adsense have absolutely no say in who owns the "estate" after I die. My will and the lawyers determine who owns that estate? |
So, number one priority is to name a beneficiary of the website earnings in your will.
There is no guarantee you'll have earnings from AdSense while you're alive, much less after you're dead.
If you own an apartment building, for example, you can leave that property to someone via your will, but you can't will them your earnings from the apartment rent. The new owner of the apartment building will have to maintain the property and keep the tenants happy to generate their own income. The fact that someone inherited your apartment building does not obligate the tenants to remain and keep paying rent past their contractual obligation.
The same is true of AdSense, I could name Bill Gates as my beneficiary in my will, but that doesn't obligate AdSense to pay Bill Gates the income my sites were earning before my death.
This is an important discussion. I'm going to escalate this issue through my team and find out what your best course of action is now.
|No, don't tell me, Google has an uplink to the great Publisher in the sky and I'll be still getting notifications after I'm gone? |
Ha, wouldn't that be useful? But no, what I meant was that we'll work with you now to prepare for later. :)
ASA it would help a lot if we could get advise on what to do in preparation. For example What instructions should we give our heirs?
Will they need to get a new AdSense account? Won't it look funny when they apply for AdSense on sites that already have AdSense?
Relating to this topic there's an insurance policy you can buy called 'keyman insurance'.
For many people here they ARE the keyman so it might be worth having more of a look into this type of insurance. It works by paying out a sum of money if the keyman dies or suffers a injury/disease which means they cannot work anymore. It's cmpany related and not personal related so not the same as life insurance or critical illness insurance etc.
[edited by: Calculus at 4:06 pm (utc) on Oct. 29, 2007]
Right now yes, they need to reapply, get verified by mail, login, create new channels, generate new code, insert that code into every page on site or in the site templates..
I'd really hate to do ALL THIS myself let alone have someone new even if they knew what they were doing do it all, add on top of all that all the pain of losing someone as lovable as me :-)
Please ASA, simplify the procedure if possible with minimum hassle and minimum down time, also you really don't want to start collecting data for the very same site from scratch.
|bloke in a box|
<tongue in cheek>
I'll have them if you don't want the sites anymore Farmboy ;)
</tongue in cheek>
That previous thread is an interesting read!
Folks can do some reading on business succession planning. The first thing I'd do is incorporate in some fashion. Incorporations transcend individual lives. If Google, your affiliates, your credit cards, and so on are all doing business with 'company XYZ', then it really doesn't matter so much if you die. At that point you just need to have plans to get the company moved over to whoever is taking it over.
Moving the company to someone else after your death is likely to take some tinkering as well - but at that point a trip to the accountant/lawyers will likely get it straightened out; because at that point all you're really doing is moving ownership of shares - the company doesn't change.
There is likely tax issues on this as well, it's not as simple as 'give them your business in the will'. Governments don't like transfer of assets upon death unless they get their cut...and they want that cut first.
I'm surprised that nobody brought up the legal issues until fairly late in the discussion.
There are laws regarding estates, and those would apply here. The best person to advise you on this is your attorney. It would be a good time to discuss how you'd like to dispose of your other assets, as well.
It's no different than any other business, property, contract, etc. Some of the suggestions made here are almost certainly outside of the law.
I'm fairly familiar with the possible missteps here, as I have a friend whose mother died a couple of years ago without a valid will. (Several different wills found in her safe-deposit box, none of them properly signed - what a mess!)
I'm also surprised that nobody has mentioned trusts yet - just wills. Wills can be a pain in the butt. Many people now choose to have their homes held in a trust. When they die, the beneficiary has control immediately, without having to wait for a will to be probated. I'm sure a lot of people are having both pleasant and unpleasant surprises in this regard right now in a falling real estate market. It can take months just to get the probate process started, and in the mean time things are in limbo, an anxious lender might have to be held-off, and the property might go empty while mortgage payments accrue.
If you have significant income from a business, it should get no less attention than your home.
If you want this to be seamless, set up a corporation, set up a trust, and have the trust own the corporation. The corporation continues to exist even when you cease to, and the beneficiary controls the trust. I don't think you *have* to set up a corporation, but it may provide an additional layer of insulation.
What you don't want to do is pass on the business by extra-legal means, and then have the beneficiary have to give all the money back a year later, and then face potential civil or criminal liability - all because of your well-meaning good intentions. In general, without the proper legal structure in place, nobody has the right to access the bank accounts or cash checks written to the deceased.
|There are laws regarding estates, and those would apply here. The best person to advise you on this is your attorney. |
In conjuction with your tax advisor! Besides the legal issues, there can be a lot of serious tax issues, especially with income producing assets. As was pointed out, the entity keeps producing (or losing) money, but without a clear (and uncontested) succession stragety, no one has access to the money until the legal mess is sorted out.
I took the bull by the horns after I had a heart attack and the spouse had heart surgery.
My then married, now divorced youngest daughter and her son get it all in our will. So, I created a little website for her back in early 2006, on a topic of her interest, and she applied for Adsense. Soon after, I created two more little websites for her, both with Adsense on them, as well as other revenue partners.
Through that process, she has learned how to run the websites, though none take much time on her behalf. She pokes at them about once a month, enough to stay fresh on them. One, her dad and I have helped with, and that one has sudden done nicely. As a whole her websites are earning her a few hundred dollars a month. It is spending money for her now.
Once I explained to her that her inheritance was worth millions to her over her lifetime, IF she could manage the websites, her interest in learning how to run a website suddenly skyrocketed.
But, the important thing is she learned how to run the websites, so jumping into ours will be breeze for her. She can just change our Adsense code, as well as our other revenue partners to hers, which she knows how to do very easily. Since she has already been set up with the revenue partners, a major hurdle is out of the way.
Login information for all our business logins as well as personal logins are kept updated in an image file, not a text file and are not kept on any of our computers nor on any disks in the home.
The wisest thing I did for my heirs was to create websites using software that is easy to learn, instead of hand coding every page. The original sites (1992-2000) were all hand coded.
But, I realized back in about 2000 that not just anyone could jump into the sites and run them in an emergency. That is when I switched to the software for all my sites. At that time, I taught my husband how to use the software, which took a good three years for him to learn. Once learned, he was able to quit his job to help me. It only took my daughter about 3 months to learn, what he learned in 3 years. Kids!
If we make it that long, the grandson will be the next to learn. I plan to create a website for him when he is 13, again on a topic of interest to him. That way he will have his foot in the door and can help his mom.
I have already spoken with my heirs about which websites to sell after I die, and which ones to keep, based on time it takes to run them and the income they produce.
All of this solved my worries about what will become of my hard work when I am gone. It may not run as smoothly as when I had control, but I am confident it will provide a nice income flow to my heirs when I am gone and over time they will learn enough to keep it growing.
On a footnote...
Tragically, that daughter was in a car accident recently, suffered a severe head injury and was in a coma for about 3 weeks. That has left her some what physically and mentally disabled. The timing for me buidling her websites and teaching her early last year could not have been more appropriate. Learning new things is very hard for her now, but she has been able to remember how do things she already knew.
We now take care of her and the grandson, bringing them into our home, and were able to stay by her side at the hospital 130 miles away from home for the first 36 days as she fought for her life. Now her rehabiliation takes up a huge portion of our days each week.
If not for the business, and Adsense primarily, I don't know how we could have managed it all. Thank goodness for laptops, wireless, and Adsense. 10 years ago this would have been a financial nightmare, on top of the emotional nightmare. One of us would have had to quit a job to care for them.
Jumping the gun a bit, I have begun to sell off some of my 3-5 year old websites and domain names now, to lighten the load for them later. Clearly, with her disabilities she is not going to be able to manage all I have on the web. These were projects I had visions for, before things went south with the family health. This means I need to get things in order so she can better manage them in the event my number comes up sooner than I had anticipated. We never know when a car accident or other accident can dramatically change the future in an instant.
Never put off until tomorrow, what you should do today. Start working with your heirs.
I've spoken to several of our specialists who handle the account issues of deceased publishers, and they said that the best thing you can do now is to leave your preferences in your will. There's no need to notify the AdSense team directly; we'll ask your heirs for any necessary official documentation and will be more than willing to work with them on a case-by-case basis to ensure that everything is handled in the way you specify.
We're not able to provide tax or legal advice on this issue, so everyone should talk to an attorney or tax advisor as well, as several of you have suggested. As with any other asset or business, you should also make sure your heirs know of your intentions, whether that include training them to take over your sites and accounts or simply letting them know they exist. It's great to hear that many of you are already doing this.
Thanks for raising this question, farmboy, and thanks to everyone else who's contributed their own advice and stories.
Thanks for asking the original question. It's a very important issue but I never saw a thread on it here before.
an obtuse answer:
It's likely that whoever inherits your web empire won't have the desire or inclination to be a web emperor. They won't know how to manage an SEM campaign or invoice your clients, or whatever you do. The only way you can expect your web business to survive after your death is to cushion it with other webmasters.
expand and hire. Get a few people working for you who could potentially keep the ball rolling after your demise. Sadly a small company who loses its leader will often fold, but with some staff in place at least the heir/executor will have people on hand to help manage those affairs, and if the business shuts down, handle the sale and liquidation of assets. Write into your will that your employees should each get a huge parting severance in the event the company folds upon your death.
With the right staff, your company might continue to thrive - make sure that ownership is passed to someone who will benefit from ownership profits. Or perhaps your online assets will be bought out or absorbed into new ventures.
If that's not feasible, then at least write down all your passwords, bank accounts, etc and a written set of instructions for closing or maintaining accounts and accessing your online assets. Keep it updated. Make friends with other webmasters so in the event of your death, your heir might have some compassionate and competent volunteers they could call to help them through a difficult transition.
I'm planning on never dying. I just ordered the pill of everlasting life on the net today! Should be coming from Brazil any day now...
Like someone near the front of this thread mentioned, we set up the Adsense registrant as our company. It was originally a partnership and is now a Limited Liability Corp with S Corp status - which also has some great US tax benefits for self employed husband/wife companies. If you set it up yourself, it can cost as little as a couple hundred dollars (for all the state and local filing fees) and your local business supplies place will usually have form packets with instructions for sell. But if you've never done it I'd recommend finding a competent lawyer or CPA for another couple $hundred to help you the first time. In the Articles of Incorporation you can specify anyone you want as a Managing Member and change it fairly easily at any time by refiling - most places I think require this to be filed annually anyway. This definition can get quite complex, but in highly simplified form, if any Member(s) dies, the others remaining automatically absorb or take over that member's share of the company without any legal hassles or stopping of business. Anyone can be a member, spouse, child, relatives, girlfriends...) Likewise, the Adsense payments (along with any other affiliate or direct billing income your company may be getting) continue to the same bank account without stop or change and the only thing that changes, internally in the company, is who the corp resolves to disburse the profits to next month, by writing a check from the company checkbook. Make sure that all, or most members have signing authority on company business checks through your bank.
- Not a CPA or attorney. Contact your own for full details.
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