Have you ever wondered what happens to your email accounts and social networking accounts such as Facebook and MySpace when you die? Who gets access to your accounts, can people get even get access to your account and your stored personal information?
Almost every website will have a different policy for dead account holders, so I will discuss what popular websites such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo email accounts, MySpace and Facebook social networking websites do in the event of a death of one of their users.
If you have a Gmail account and you pass away, your next of kin will be allowed to access your emails. The account will stay open forever, but as the next of kin, you are able to request it to be deleted. To get access to the email account, you will need to supply the following information by fax or mail to Google to be granted account access of the deceased user account.
- Your full name (next of kin), your contact information and a verifiable email address
- The Gmail email address of the deceased person
- An email containing the full headers of an email message that the deceased person has emailed you with the entire contents of the email
- Proof of death
- Documentation to prove that you are the lawfully allowed to access their email (if the deceased is over 18). If deceased person is under 18 of age, you must provide a birth certificate
After you’ve compiled the information, Google will verify it and grant you access to the user account.
More information about accessing a deceased person’s mail can be found in Google’s Support Page.
So if you have private information that you don’t want people to look at when you are dead, don’t use Gmail (use Yahoo instead).
If you are trying to access a deceased person’s email account, you may first want to try to reset the user’s password.
If Hotmail accounts are left inactive for a period of time, the email account along with all the information will be eventually deleted (within the year) and therefore, you will not be able to access it. If you die, your next of kin will be granted access to your account provided they supply supporting documents such as a death certificate (similar to what Google needs). Hotmail will not reset the password for the deceased person, but you have to fax or mail information to gain access to the account such as:
- Your email address
- Your shipping address (as they send you a package in the mail
- Documents to state your are the benefactor or you have power of attorney
- Your photocopied driver’s license
- A photocopy of the death certificate
- Information about the account holder such as first and last name, date of birth, city, state, zip, approximate date of the account creation and the approximate date of last sign in.
If you require more information, you can get it at Windows Live Help.
Yahoo has a much stricter policy over who can get access to your account. And that is no one. If you want to ensure no one has access to your emails when you die, you would want to choose Yahoo. Yahoo will not grant permission to anyone to access a deceased user’s account. The only permission Yahoo grants is for the account to be deleted. Therefore, Yahoo does not allow anyone to access your emails. The only way someone can do this is if they reset your account password.
Facebook will not grant anyone access to a deceased user account, but if the user of the account is deceased, their page will be turned into a memorial page once reqested. By filling out the form to turn an deceased users page into a memorial page, Facebook will remove sensitive information on the account like status updates and will only allow current friends to access the page. Family members will then be allowed to customise the page of the deceased user.
MySpace deceased user policy is a bit vague, but they state that if you are the next of kin, they will not grant you access to edit, or delete any of the content or settings on the account yourself, but you can request it to be removed if you deem appropriate. You can simply email email@example.com and attach appropriate documentation such as a death certificate. However, if you have access to their email account, MySpace recommends that you reset the user password.
In the end”¦
If you die, your accounts will most likely stay active unless the site automatically deletes the account due to inactivity, or your family has requested the account to be closed. Most sites allow access to your personal data by your next of kin, but to gain this right, they will need to mail proof to the website. Even though you may have died, if you use one password for all these sites, your family members might be able to use that password, or even guess your secret question. But then again, when you die, would you even care what people find in your email inbox or social networking sites?
If you are trying to access a deceased person’s email, try resetting their email, look to see if they have stored the password in a file, or see if they have written it down on paper.
Have you ever gone through something like this? What did you do to secure the deceased user account? Your experience could help easy the transition for others. Share them in the comments.
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