It's almost always in the Terms of Service, or TOS, of every digital company: Never share your account information with anyone. For those unfamiliar with the phrase "Terms of Service," it's that endless scroll of legalese you must agree to when using a service. Not many people have the time or inclination to read this because it's often confusing, quite boring, and very long.
But what do you do with your digital account after you die? Ultimately, it's your call. One route is to create a digital estate plan. But if you want to abide by the TOS and have your friends or family go through the required channels to close an account, that's your call too.
Here are all the details to help you make your decision.
Accessing a deceased person's Gmail account
Google provides instructions on how to make a request for a deceased person’s account whether you are trying to close an account, obtain funds from an account, or get data from an account.
Google also goes a step further with something called "Inactive Account Manager", which is a way to either share or delete your account after a set period of inactivity. This is a way you can take control of how you want your account information shared once you are gone.
To set up "Inactive Account Manager", go to your Settings Page, click on Data Tools and then click Set Up Inactive Account Manager.
This is the official method to manage or delete a Yahoo account after a death:
Options available when a Yahoo Account owner passes away
As part of their Terms (TOS), Oath, which is the parent company of Yahoo, will not provide passwords or access to deceased users' accounts, including account content such as email.
Yahoo does have a process in place to request that your loved one's account be closed, billing and premium services suspended, and any contents permanently deleted for privacy.
Requesting to close a Yahoo account
In order to process this kind of request, Yahoo requires the following:
- A letter containing your request and stating the Yahoo ID of the deceased
- A copy of a document appointing the requesting party as the personal representative or executor of the estate of the deceased;
- A copy of the death certificate of the Yahoo account holder
Send the information to Yahoo’s Legal Department
Fax: (408) 349-7941
Customer Service Number: 800-318-0612
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale, CA, 94089-0703
Again, we extend our condolences to you and your family.
Microsoft (Hotmail.com, Outlook.com, Live.com, Windowslive.com, MSN.com)
The following information will help you contact Microsoft regarding a deceased person’s Outlook.com account.
What can Microsoft provide me with in relation to my family member’s Outlook.com account?
The Microsoft Next of Kin process allows for the release of Outlook.com contents to the next of kin of a deceased or incapacitated account holder and/or closure of the Microsoft account, following a short authentication process. This includes:
- All emails and their attachments
- Address book
- Messenger contact list
Microsoft will not provide you with the password to the account or change the password on the account. They will not transfer ownership either. Account contents are released by way of a data DVD which is shipped to you.
What products does the Microsoft Next of Kin process support?
At this time, the Microsoft Next of Kin process supports only Outlook.com accounts (email accounts ending in @outlook.com, @hotmail.com, @live.com, @windowslive.com, or @msn.com). There is no support for SkyDrive, MSN Dial-up, or Xbox Live.
How to request the contents or the closure of a Microsoft account
To request the release of an email account’s contents, or to request the closure of an account, send an email to the Microsoft Custodian of Records at email@example.com.
You will also be required to provide some information about the account, including:
- Copies of documentation to verify the account holder’s death
- Your relation to the deceased
- An email address where you can be reached
Documentation required for the next of kin process
In order to prove that you are legal next of kin and that the account holder is deceased or incapacitated, Microsoft requires the following documentation:
- An official, government issued death certificate for the user, if the user is deceased.
- A photocopy of your government issued photo ID.
- For incapacitation: A certified document signed by a medical professional in charge of the care of the user is required. Also accepted is a notarized note signed by the doctor in charge or a signed court document showing power of attorney or executorship of a trust for the account holder.
- For Proof of Next of Kin: A document showing that you are the user’s next of kin and/or executor or benefactor of their estate, or that you have power of attorney. Any of the following documents are accepted as proof of kinship or executor status:
- A marriage certificate showing that you are the surviving spouse.
- Signed power of attorney paperwork.
- A copy of a will or trust document naming you as executor or beneficiary.
- A birth certificate for the user, if you are their parent; or guardianship paperwork for legal guardians.
Information to know about the Outlook.com account
Microsoft requires answers to the following:
- What is or are the email address or addresses?
- What is the first and last name that the account holder used when creating the account?
- What is the date of birth that the account holder gave when creating the account?
- What city, state, and zip code (for U.S. users) or country did the account holder enter as their place of residence when the account was created?
- Approximately when was the account created? This doesn’t need to be anything specific. “During the late 1990s,” or “Around 2004” are perfectly acceptable answers.
- Approximately when was the account last accessed? It is important to note if you’ve been actively checking the account, or if you suspect that the account has been accessed by an unauthorized individual.
- What type of computer you use.
How to submit the documentation
Once you’ve gathered your documentation, you may submit it in any of the following three ways:
- Scan and email the documents to firstname.lastname@example.org
- Fax the documentation to (425) 708-7851
- Mail copies of the documentation to:
Next of Kin
One Microsoft Way
Redmond, WA 98052
For full instructions and terms, see
Apple iCloud (Mac.com, Me.com)
The following appears in the iCloud Terms of Service:
No Right of Survivorship
You agree that your Account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or Content within your Account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of a death certificate your Account may be terminated and all Content within your Account deleted. Contact iCloud Support at www.apple.com/support/icloud for further assistance.
Upon clicking the support link you're thrown into the massive support section. Try starting with their Get Support section and, if you're still getting nowhere, try calling their main support number: 1-800-275-2273
This article is provided by Everplans — a life and legacy planning company dedicated to transforming the way people get their families organized. For more information, visit: everplans.com
Why It Matters:
- Decide what you want done with your email accounts after you’re gone.
- Should your email accounts be deleted, archived, transferred to another person?
- The provider’s terms of service may make it difficult for a family member to manage after a death.
- Make sure to include your email accounts and other assets in a digital estate plan.