Web Culture

What Happens To Your Email and Social Networking Accounts When You Die?

Jack Cola 16-11-2009

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.

what happens to your email and facebook when you die


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 accountcare@support.myspace.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.

what happens to your facebook when you die


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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  1. Peter
    February 10, 2010 at 1:39 pm

    You kids don't understand. The older you get in life the more secrets you will have to protect. Many of them live in your email. You will have secrets about your finances, your romances (past & present), your marriage(s), your divorce(s), your illnesses, your military records, your jobs, your education, your parents information etc etc. In the facebook, myspace era you kids make too much information about yourselves available. That is a stupid thing to do. In my generation we love and value our privacy. And we need it. Bravo for Yahoo mail. DON'T RELEASE my account to my kids. There is nothing there they need to know about. If there were I would have given them the password. And if my child passes away. I don't want to know what they were doing in email If they had wanted me to know they would have given me access.

    • Jack Cola
      February 10, 2010 at 3:04 pm

      Peter, is healthy to keep all those secretes from your loved ones? I am sure you have your reasons for it.

      In my opinion, facebook doesn't give away secretes, it more builds up a profile about someones attitude, values, and beliefs.

      I have a question for you, when you die, do you really care what other people discover about your life? How would you know anyway? When you are dead, what are your reasons for not wanting your family to discover your secretes? Also, are you admitting that you have secretes? If someone you love reads this, (has a key logger on your computer for example) they might start to ask you questions about your past.
      We may be young, but we know how to see what older, less computer savvy people do on computers - I am not saying you are one.

      • Peter
        February 10, 2010 at 6:18 pm

        One day you'll be old enough to have a past full of baggage. Everyone does. It might be financial irresponsibility or trouble with the law. Maybe you had a very bad marriage that ended in a very bitter divorce, maybe an affair or two? Perhaps a drug problem or an alcohol problem. Maybe an employee/employer problem or perhaps a son or daughter with any of the above problems. Maybe you hit the lottery and are trying to hide from all of your worthless relatives. It may be many things. But then, and only then you'll understand the need for the privacy of conversations you may have had with friends, relatives, licensed professionals or even total strangers. Trust me. You'll want to have your loved ones protected from the details of those kinds of conversations.

        • Jack Cola
          February 10, 2010 at 6:40 pm

          Even so if one of those things does happen (and chances are it will) Would it make a difference when you have passed away?

          What will they do? What can they do? In our day with so much of our personal information on the web, secretes are bound to appear sooner or later.

          Look how much information Google has about you. They have all your emails, they have everything you search for, they have all the sites you visit. And I wouldn't be surprised if Microsoft is doing the same (just my personal opinion)

          So if you don't want Gmail to give your next of king your email information, you better contact them now and say if someone requests your information when you are dead, make sure they deny it.

          My opinion is that you can't keep everything a secrete. People have ways of finding secretes about you. You may want to have a read this and see what the internet reveals about you. //www.makeuseof.com/tag/15-websites-to-trace-people-online/

          Anyway, I am going to stop this debate now.
          Thanks for your comments.

        • Peter
          February 11, 2010 at 7:44 am

          Your parents probably always told you "one day you'll understand". I'm here to tell you. That your parents were right. So were my parents. Bye!

  2. Barbie
    January 18, 2010 at 7:52 pm

    My 22 daughter passed out of her body almost 6 months ago. I was unable to hack any of her sites even though she had shared her passwords with me at various times in the past.

    Hotmail was her main email account and after sending in all the information I received an email back saying they would verify my information and send me a CD with all of her emails. I have since emailed them twice and both times they have indicated that they are very far behind in these requests but not to worry has her account was frozen and saved. We will see...

    Facebook was the easiest to deal with. I asked to be added to her Facebook account as I did not have Facebook prior to her passing and wanted to join in order to see the hundreds of pictures she had posted. They added me within a few days and were very responsive. This might have been as she had twice sent me emails from Facebook with a link to join. Friends and family still post there to say "hello" to her and it is heartwarming.

    Personally, I am grateful to retain any sign of her on the web - we ended up making a website with her music and poetry so anyone can find her and her talents will not be forgot.

    Thanks - hope this helps.

    • Jack Cola
      February 10, 2010 at 2:54 pm

      Thanks Barbie for your touching comment, and I am very sorry for your loss.

      I much appreciate you sharing your experience with Hotmail and Facebook.

      Thanks again.

  3. Joan
    January 18, 2010 at 1:01 pm

    Good information. I've linked to you on my page about making an advance directive for your computer accounts.

  4. Ramesh
    November 30, 2009 at 2:00 am

    The topic is very Good.
    your Answers is very Good

  5. forex robot
    November 28, 2009 at 9:48 am

    Great post this will really help me.

  6. jrf_nl
    November 26, 2009 at 6:40 pm

    Thank you for this write-up. I sincerily hope it'll help people.

    I've been in the unfortunate situation of having to close a loved ones 'digital' life before and found that a lot of websites just don't have a policy for unsubscribing/deregistering, let alone for closing down accounts after someone has died.

    I was fortunate enough to be able to crack (with use of a hacking tool) the passwords of my loved ones email accounts in Outlook. Having gained access to those passwords, it was hit and miss using them to try & access all sites on which he was registered, though using 'forgot password' options often helped combined with the email access.

    Some sites offered options to 'unsubscribe/deregister' from the site. A lot didn't. Emailing the helpdesk/customer service from his registered email address and identifying myself as a relative of the deceased often worked to get the account deleted.

    My loved one was not all that active online, but it still amazes me at how many website a 'hardly-digital' person is/was registered. So many sites nowadays require you to register even to receive their newsletter or when you order a one-off purchase, that it adds up to a lot of websites.

    All in all it was quite a lot of work at a moment in time when I surely was not at my best.

    It has made me consider my - very active- digital life in another light and I've ensured that my brother knows how to access most of the places where I've registered.
    Having a 'password safe' or using a program like 'PasswordMaker' (www.passwordmaker.org) which generates different passwords for each sites but lets you access them using one master-password, does help a lot.
    Closing down or deregistering as the account user is a lot easier than having to go through the whole process of proving you are a relative and that the person really is deceased.

    The most difficult account to close proved PayPal and so far I have not been able to close it, even though the balance is 0.

    • Jack Cola
      February 10, 2010 at 2:52 pm

      Thanks very much for your comment.
      Everyone has a lot of accounts - and to close the main ones such as banking, email, or subscriptions should be the ones done first.

  7. Mutant
    November 24, 2009 at 5:23 pm

    Thank you for this. I just submitted 3 friends to facebook. It was difficult to dig all that up again, but I keep seeing people posting to their wall and it kills me that some folks out there don't know they passed.

  8. Francetchi
    November 24, 2009 at 2:02 am

    Merci .C'etait une des préoccupation qui me troublaient le sommeil

  9. Himanshu
    November 20, 2009 at 2:22 am

    Really useful information!

  10. N Bocking
    November 19, 2009 at 3:37 am

    It might be maudlin to think of but if you want to maximise the value of your estate, you should prepare the groundwork for this by preparing a 'death document' listing all your accounts and passwords and keeping it in a safe place as you would your will. A huge amount of money can be saved in executor costs if you make it easier for your executors to sort out your affairs. This posting would be useful if it explained what Paypal and eBay's policies are. I had to sort out a young person's affairs after a sudden death and found a significant amount of money lay in REI divideds, Paypal and eBay which the deceased had left account details off. I am surprised that MySpace etc would accept an obituary as evidence as that depends on newspapers verfiying the facts. This is perhaps an American thing, as there are few UK newspapers you can get an obituary reported. A faxed copy of a death certificate might be more appropriate in the UK.

  11. Chethan
    November 18, 2009 at 11:57 pm

    Really Liked this Post! You People in makeuseof think very differently and post something which is not available in any other blog! Thanks

  12. Deep
    November 17, 2009 at 3:08 am

    Thanks for sharing. This is a unique info which i was not aware of.

  13. Noah
    November 16, 2009 at 6:28 pm

    Hm, I reported myself as being dead on Facebook, not much happened.

  14. Jack Cola
    November 16, 2009 at 6:19 pm

    I am very happy to share this information with our readers.

    We come up with our articles by sending Monkeys into space, and when they land back on earth, they give us all these magical posts to write about. :P

    We will keep working to bring our readers what they want, like post like these and many more.

    Glade you liked it.

  15. Jim Cathars
    November 16, 2009 at 5:00 pm

    nice work! I'm not 100% clear on how the writers at makeuseof keep coming up "the good questions" out there that lead to rare articles like these, but I frickin' love the niche information your RSS feeds bring me every day... Keep working your magic, guys, I promise I'll keep coming back for more information like this - the kind that's worthy of a click on my [GMailThis!] bookmarklet that sends a link to your website to all of my friends.

    • Bryan
      November 19, 2009 at 7:05 am

      Thanks for the info, but I am not planning on cashing in quite yet, so my relatives will have to wait to also cash in, lol.

  16. Abd Allah Diab
    November 16, 2009 at 2:50 pm

    Thanks for the post :)
    Never came to my mind, I'll write my password in my will so me heirs be able to decide what to do :)

  17. Tony
    November 16, 2009 at 2:10 pm

    Thanks for sharing this post.