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How To Access A Deceased Relative’s Digital Accounts

Joshua Lockhart 25-06-2013

digital accounts after deathWhile the Internet has already provided for ways to remove your deceased loved one’s digital accounts Your Last Email & Testament - What Happens To Your Data When You Die? I know it's a morbid subject, but the reality is that we live in a virtually immortal society. While our bodies may cease to exist, our virtual profiles go on appearing in emails, automatic notifications,... Read More  , there is occasionally the need to access them. Sometimes it’s for will information – other times it has to deal with financial reasons. Whatever your objective may be, I understand how tough it is.


Below are a few tips to get you started in the right direction for gaining access to your deceased relative’s digital account. I can’t guarantee success, but I can say that these are good ways to move forward. Read on, and hopefully, this information will help you out.

Email Accounts

digital accounts after death

Personally speaking, if your loved one has passed away, I would highly recommend that you go straight to their email account and attempt to access it. Here you can find a wealth of information that can be used for other accounts, and as a plus, since email is such a regularly accessed web tool, chances are that it could be already logged in.

If their email account isn’t already logged in, there are a few other steps you can take. For instance, Gmail allows users to access the accounts of dead relatives just as long as the proper documentation is provided (like a death certificate). Yes, this is morbid, but because technology is such an intricate part of our lives nowadays, it’s a necessary evil. Google has actually provided a help page on the topic, and more details can be found there.

Yahoo Mail users won’t have much luck, unfortunately. The company stands on the fact that it has the right to protect a user’s information even after death – something that is both noble and kind of annoying depending on the situation. There is a way to access these accounts, but it actually requires a court order. If you’re up for jumping through hoops, then have a go at it.

Advertisement is a little confusing, but from what I can tell, they require similar information as Google for outside account access. However, the way to go about it is a bit confusing. You actually need to attempt to sign in as the user, and then state that you must recover the account information. There’s a help thread on the issue, so it’s at the very least possible.

For more information on accessing the email accounts of a loved one, you should take a look at this article: What Happens To Your Email and Social Networking Accounts When You Die? What Happens To Your Email and Social Networking Accounts When You Die? Read More

Social Media

death online accounts

Social media is probably the second most important online account next to one’s email (but it’s likely the most-used comparitively speaking). This is where individuals interact on a more public plane, and due to crazy algorithms and what-not, their profiles can pop up on feeds even when the individual has passed on.


Facebook does not necessarily allow a user to access the deceased’s accounts, but it will allow you to create a memorial page which replaces their former profile. This won’t help you very much in the event that you are actually trying to find important information. Twitter offers a similar profile removal feature, but it will not allow you to access the individual’s information.

So let me be clear: no matter what, these services will not give you account access. Instead, you are going to have to be a bit creative. Below are a few tips that I have:

  • If you have gained access to the Google or Outlook account, try using the same password on these social accounts.
  • Check all of the computer’s browsers to see if they are still logged in
  • If you know your relative was forgetful, see if they have written down the passwords with other information such as important phone numbers (check the refrigerator door).
  • If you have access to the deceased’s smartphone, chances are that these accounts are already connected, and you can easily access them.
  • Similarly to the refrigerator door (I was half-joking), see if there are any saved documents on their computer with the account information listed

Out of all of these tips, I’d say that the smartphone one is your best bet. However, the others could possibly work as well – you won’t know unless you try.


digital accounts after death


It’s certainly not going to be easy to access a deceased relative’s accounts, but it’s worth trying. I hope that these tips will get you started in the right direction. Furthermore, if you have recently lost a loved one, I want to express my condolences.

For those of you who are still with us, I urge you to do your friends and family a favor by easing the transition of your possible death by providing easy access to this information. For reference, take a look at this article: The Digital Afterlife – Managing Your Final Affairs The Digital Afterlife – Managing Your Final Affairs As you look towards the final stage of your life, you may realize that there is a certain amount of paperwork must be handled. We've even covered a great deal of this information in one... Read More .

What other ways have you accessed a deceased relative’s account? Did the tips above help you?

Image Credits: Stephen Johnson, Karin Dalziel, Emmet Tullos


Related topics: Email Tips, Password.

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  1. Sue
    July 2, 2013 at 1:52 pm

    My wife and I use LastPass. Our LastPass passwords are locked away in a secure place that is only to be breached upon death. We've included instructions on how to do that in our wills.

  2. Lee
    June 25, 2013 at 9:36 pm

    Really, you just need access to their email. For everything else you can just click the "Forgot password" link and get a password reset sent to that email.
    While this may technically be against the TOS of the site (since you're logging into someone else's account) there really isn't a chance they could know you're doing it (unless you post as them and someone reports the account).

    • Toni
      November 13, 2017 at 12:13 am

      I realize that this post is many years old, but I recently had a very good friend pass away and her family is having some of these issues in this article. I'm replying to your comment because if the person in question is trying to access a deceased relative or friend's email acct, then clicking on the "forgot password" link and having an email sent to that email isn't going to help at all considering they can't get into the email acct to begin with!!! How would they check the email???? Just saying...that's pretty much "common sense", isn't it??

      • Lee
        November 13, 2017 at 1:15 am

        That's why I said "Really, you just need access to their email"...

        • Toni
          November 13, 2017 at 7:28 pm

          Ok???? I'm not following your reasoning?
          Just the way your comment read made it seem as though you were instructing on how to obtain the deceased parties password by clicking on the "forgot password" link, therefore having a new password sent to the email address to which they couldn't get into in the first place. Which is why I questioned your comment. And then you respond with "That's why I said, Really, you just need access to their email...".
          I'm just not understanding your response or meaning?
          It honestly isn't a big deal though or something either of us should be debating about!! Have a great day!

  3. Degenerated S
    June 25, 2013 at 4:07 pm

    That's some nice info MUO !! thanx.

  4. ReadandShare
    June 25, 2013 at 3:04 am

    Back in the days, opening up an actual diary was much easier -- once you find it. But is it ethical to open and read it... just because you have it in your hands?

    If not, then neither is it ethical to "guess" at passwords --as Mr. Lockhart is suggesting.

    But if one is desperate for info -- such as the executor of a 'sloppily-written' will trying to locate assets, etc. -- then I think at the very least -- he or she should take great care not to snoop into anything not specifically related. My two cents anyway.