Once you understand the fundamentals of webmastering, especially the relationship between you and the web hosting company, you are ready to tackle the issue of taking over an existing site. Did the old webmaster give you the login information and the name of the web hosting company? if so, just head for their site and get started. Call their technical support line if you can't log in successfully. If you do not have this information, ask the old webmaster, if at all possible; this will save you a great deal of effort.
If the former maintainer of the site can't be contacted and you don't know where the site is hosted, you will need to do some detective work. See how do I identify the owner of a website?
Once you have located the hosting company and obtained your acount information, you should be able to maintain your site; the exact methods used to transfer files back and forth depend on the hosting company in question, and are better explained under how do I set up a website?
If there is a legal dispute as to the ownership of the website or the domain name, you will need to resolve the matter with the previous maintainer. You may need to consult a lawyer to resolve such matters. The whois database search can be useful in locating the parties involved. I am not a lawyer and cannot give legal advice.
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