Clients who have died

Just had a thought about something and wondered what we should do if a web design client dies and we find ourselves contacted by relatives or simply somebody unknown asking to pull down a site. You wouldn’t want to cause stress or create problems, but equally there must be a correct legal procedure for web designers, just like when contacting utility companies etc.

A few years back a friend of mine died and he had about 8 accounts on Linkedin that had remained active from previous jobs. He was still receiving offers and friend requests after he had died and his widow asked me to deal with it. In that instance I needed to send them a digital copy of his death certificate and let them know all the email addresses associated with different accounts.

If it’s there loved one they’ll have a way to handle this with the registrar and/or host. I would not get involved unless I’m one of those services.

If I am hosting the site (since this sounds like a small business) I’d decommission the things that I control, not delete just yet.

Luckily you don’t have to take responsibility for their social media accounts those can be dealt with directly. and if you are, it’s not as hard to ask for any documentation you might need to present.

I have a few older clients in their 70s, so it’s definitely something that could happen at some point and I am hosting the websites. Those could be suspended before eventual deletion, but I wanted to work out some kind of procedure so I am not caught out on this, especially if there is a business involved with fighting family members or business partners. I wouldn’t want to find myself dragged into some dispute.

The best way to deal with this situation is to firstly establish if you’re dealing with a registered business or company. If you are, such entities have their own legal identity and don’t die. Therefore, all you need to do is ask for details of who the new owners of the business are, along with some evidence that the business has changed hands (formal notice to a registrar for example).

In the case of an individual, you should firstly express your condolences to whoever requests the site be taken down and then respectfully ask for the date and place where the death was registered. You can then check with the appropriate authority to ensure correctness of the information.

In either case, I would move the site into a sub-directory, replacing the main site with a holding page of some sort. You should leave this up for about 30 - 60 days until you’ve satisfied yourself as to the genuineness of the request.

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