If a person becomes incapacitated or dies, look for any Web pages or blogs that the person operated. As most people know, a blog is a personal or business Web page with posted news items, reviews, or personal comments about a particular topic. For example, Politico is a popular blog with updates about Washington politics.
Personal Web pages and blogs can generate revenue, which can make them valuable assets. These sites may generate revenue by selling advertisements on their pages—this revenue is typically based on the volume of unique visitors and the number of pages that they view. Some advertisers pay only for the actual number of times a visitor clicks on the advertisement link, regardless of how many visitors see the ad. Personal Web pages and blogs probably will not generate significant advertisement revenue.
On the other hand, highly popular Web pages and blogs can be very valuable. Celebrity gossip Perez Hilton runs a blog that generates advertising revenues of $6.2 million per year, and the blog was worth an estimated $44 million in 2009 (link). Yet, without Perez Hilton, the blog may be worthless.
If a person’s Web pages or blogs have financial value, these pages and their contents should be appraised and included on the inventory of assets for the person’s guardianship, conservatorship, probate estate, or revocable trust. There are free services on the Internet to estimate value, and there are commercial appraisal companies that will estimate the value of the Web page or blog. Keep in mind that the domain name (e.g., “cnn.com“) may have a separate value than the content (text, pictures, videos, music, etc.) hosted at that domain name as Web pages or a blog. The person may own the domain name where the Web pages or blog is hosted, or the Web pages or blog may be hosted at a domain name that someone else owns. For example, the domain “WordPress.com” hosts blogs for free on its domain name. So, make sure that any appraisal you obtain values the Web page and blog content separately from the domain name, if applicable.
Also consider that there may be value in the person’s intellectual property rights in the contents of the Web page or blog. For example, on August 25, 2002, Julie Powell started blogging about her year of cooking dishes from a Julia Child cookbook, and she then turned her blog into the book Julie & Julia and eventually a 2009 movie starring Meryl Streep.
Finally, if a person is critically ill or incapacitated, the person’s Web page or blog may be a convenient way to inform family members and friends of the person’s medical status and progress. If the person does not already have a Web page or blog that would be suitable for this purpose, CaringBridge is a non–profit Web service that allows family members to post updates about a person’s critical illness and allows friends and family members to reply with messages of care and support. According to their Web site, 500,000 people per day use CaringBridge.