In the event death or incapacity

If I were to die or lose capacity to manage my affairs what would my executors, administrators or attorneys need to do in order to have iNaturalist recognise their authority to whatever rights or powers I had or have in my observations?


what kinds of powers and rights over your observations do you think you have now?


To withdraw or edit for example.

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just make sure you give your password to whoever you want to have your account, and they will be able to withdraw and edit as needed – at least technically. whether that person will have the knowledge to do what you would have done, i guess, requires you to transfer some knowledge and passion for observing and identifying stuff in iNaturalist while you’re still around, i suppose.


I would likely leave my password with my wife so she could post a notice on my profile that I had departed and wouldn’t be responding to any notifications.

But I wouldn’t expect her to manage my account in any way.

An iNatter who passed away a year or so ago did something like that.


I could do that but would regard that as improper for the reasons you mention. That person would simply be impersonating me and not being my executor or attorney would have no actual authority to stand in my place. Much like my grandmother gives me her pin to pay her rates - and I do - but I go on to buy a Ferrari that she doesn’t drive.
The answer could be simple, iNat might have a rule that membership ceases upon death or incapacity and the account is then frozen in its then current form but I have found no such rule and there would be difficulty with incapacity.
It must have happened already and will become an issue requiring an answer some day.


To my knowledge iNat has no such rule. I’ve known a few accounts in which the owners have passed away and their observations have remained stagnant but present and still contributing data. I’m a little bit confused as to what manner you would want iNaturalist to recognize their authority.


Co-incidentally, earlier today I added a feature request for the Admins to be able to add a note to a profile, so they can advise if a contributor known to them has passed away. Here in New Zealand, we have had some wonderful contributors die over the past few years, and their wishes were to keep their contributions on iNat, but it’s confusing for those who don’t know and are waiting for replies to their comments and messages.

if your intent is to prevent anyone from making changes, the best way to do this is simply to explain to whoever you want to inherit your observations that you don’t want them to make any changes to your account. there’s really nothing you can do beyond that. i would still give that person your password so that they can take actions to fulfill your wishes, if needed. for example, you could request that that person download your observations as soon as possible so that there’s a record of exactly what your observations looked like at the time.

but there’s no mechanism that iNat or the law or anything else can realistically enforce to prevent things from changing once you’re gone. (the world goes on once you’re gone.)

remember, too, that community actions could change your observations. curators can execute taxon changes, and other community members could add their own identifications to change things that you’ve identified. (if that bothers you, the person who you leave your observations to could go in and opt you out of community ID, as needed.)

Thanks Murray,
It would be a good thing if iNat installed a feature so that the community could be notified that an account would henceforth be inactive. To announce a death might be a step too far. That still leaves unanswered the question of who and how iNat should recognise persons other than the member for purposes of the account.

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Agreed - it would be great to have a workable and sensitive solution, as contributors are very much appreciated by the community and people invest a lot of time and effort posting observations and helping with id’s. Real friendships and comradery are made.

Here in New Zealand we have lost three wonderful people over recent years, which prompted the creation of a project at to remember them by grouping their observations together. Behind the scenes, the Trustees of the NZ node have been in contact with the families.


Thanks again Murray,
I’ve looked at the project and it is wonderful.
You mention that “behind the scenes, the Trustees of the NZ node have been in contact with the families.” That is the nub of the issue I have raised, what has actually occurred there is that the trustees have been satisfied about the authority of the family to deal with the interests of the “fallen totara” and the outcome is a marvellous commemorative project.
It is that process that needs to come out from behind the scenes and become part of the usual administration of iNaturalist. No passing on of passwords which would be an unsatisfactory practice leading at best to confusion (already noted) and at worst chaos.
Does anyone know how we could approach the Australian trustees (assuming they are people to approach) to have their input.

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Thomas, would you have any ideas? We have recently updated our will and having a mechanism in place may well be of benefit to the community.

For people in the United States, there is advice on this subject available here:, or at other sites found by searching something like “online accounts in wills.”
ADDENDUM: looking further, it looks like the search might be better with the term “digital assets” instead of “online accounts.”

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You might be thinking of Ian. He is sorely missed. (Almost 2 years … time flies.)

I’m Ian’s wife, Barb. I am very saddened to give this news to all the people at inat with whom he worked, respected and liked.

Our Ian died very suddenly on July 17, 2022. (The August, 2022 entry into his account was me, editing this page.)


I assume most people have retained some control over use of their images - what about after death? My default is Creative Common license, but once I’m gone, i wouldn’t care. How would anyone know?

Maybe set up something where all rights could be transferred to iNaturalist? Could perhaps be a revenue stream for iNat?

The expression of a wish in a will to the effect that you would like your observations to remain on iNat would not doubt help your personal representatives persuade whoever it is within iNat that can deal with these issues, of your wishes. But, you see, the first problem is for iNat to set out a pathway and state their requirements so iNat can be satisfied that it should recognise the authority of the people wishing to deal with the property (“digital assets” if you like) of the deceased. iNat could require production of a grant of probate or letters of administration or it could decide on some lesser requirement such as a suitable statutory declaration. Further, as mentioned earlier iNat might decide well decide that no-one other than the original account holder should be able to operate and account other than for the purposes of finalising its operation.

It would be of benefit to the member, the community and the administration by managing stagnant accounts and discouraging informal or bad practices such as disclosing passwords to permit people to operate accounts other than their own.

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An earlier discussion - with even earlier links in the comments

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you would let whomever you want to have or manage your observations know what you want to happen. if you want to put all your stuff into the public domain, you should give your passwords to your executor with instructions on setting your licensing to CC0. if you want to give copyrights to a specific person, you can do that in your will or else it will go through the default probate process. i doubt iNat will want to manage copyrights for a bunch of photos even if you want to give them your photos. furthermore, i would guess that if there is actual monetary value in your photos, that the real value lies in the source images outside of the system anyway. so if you want to gift that value to iNat, you’d probably still want someone to market your images and then send the proceeds to iNat.

i’m not sure how what you’re describing here is better or how it is effectively any different than giving someone your password once you’re gone. i also don’t see how it would benefit a small organization like iNat to try to set up a costly process to determine that someone died and to transfer access to a designated person upon death (or take some other action upon death).

iNat staff have made small tributes in the past to folks they knew personally, but that’s not a standard process.

there are several previous threads that may be worth looking through, such as:

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The iNat sign-up process only requires e-mail verification; it does not require you to provide any information that unambiguously links a specific person to that account: in other words, the problem of how to prove that a specific deceased person is in fact the person who held the account is a non-trivial issue.

It also seems to me that if you are not comfortable entrusting someone with your iNat password upon your death, why should you trust that person to manage your financial and material assets after your death in accordance with your wishes?