What Happens To Your Email Account When You Die ?

What happens to your email account when you die? Who gets access to all the data, files, attachments and messages stored in your email account, after you pass away? How do you get access to a person’s email account when he is dead and you do not know the username and password?

Times Of India has published an interesting article which states that one must have a digital will signed and ready, if the person wants to pass his email account to anyone else after his demise. An Excerpt from the article:

The first step is to create a digital inventory – an index of your “soft” assets. Second, get your digital signature authenticated. Then, it won’t take more than a day and a couple of thousands of rupees to have your digital will ready.

While I am not very sure how to get a “Digital will” signed in India, but if you want to pass on your email account to anyone else after your death – you have to follow the concerned policy (if any) of the email provider. Some email providers e.g Yahoo completely shuts down the inbox after 6 months, so there is nothing you can do to claim a dead person’s Yahoo mail account.

But if you are trying to claim a dead man’s Gmail or Windows Live Hotmail account – there is some hope.

Accessing a Deceased Person’s Gmail Account

Get Ownership of a Dead man's Gmail AccountIf an individual has passed away and you need ownership to the content of his or her Gmail account, you have to fax or mail Google some information at the following address

Postal Mail:

Google Inc.
Attention: Gmail User Support- Decedents’ Accounts
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

Fax: 650-644-0358

The following information has to be sent:

1. Your full name, physical mailing address, and verifiable email address.
2. A photocopy of your driving license or any other recognized government issued ID.
3. The Gmail address of the person who has passed away along with a photocopy of his death certificate.
4. An email containing the full headers and the content of an earlier email message that the deceased person emailed you in past.

After you have sent all the information to the above address, Google will need 30 days to validate and process your submission. More information regarding accessing a dead person’s Gmail account is available on this page.

Accessing a Deceased Person’s Windows Live Hotmail Account

To claim ownership of a deceased Windows live hotmail account, first send an email to msrecord@microsoft.com, clearly stating the death of the email account holder along with his Windows live email address. After receiving your email, Microsoft will preserve all the data for 6 months, while initiating the following authentication procedure.

You have to fax all of the following documents at 425-708-0096. If you prefer postal mail, use the following physical address:

Microsoft Corp.
Attn: Online Services Custodian of Records
1065 La Avenida, Building 4
Mountain View, CA, 94043

Documents that are to be sent for claiming the deceased Hotmail account

1. A photocopy of the death certificate
2. A recognized document which proves that you are the benefactor or executor to the deceased’s estate and that you have Power of Attorney.
3. First and last name used in the person’s email account preferences.
4. Date of birth, City, State and Zip code of the deceased person
5. An approximate date when the account was created
6. An approximate date when the account was last used.
7. A physical mailing address.

When the verification procedure is complete, Microsoft will send a CD ROM containing the account information and password of the dead person’s Hotmail account at your physical mailing address. For more information, refer to this Windows Live solution center page.

The above information is useful if any of your friend or family member (god forbid) suddenly passes away and you need ownership to that email account urgently. After getting access, you can choose to close the descendant’s email account forever or continue using it.

Have you faced similar situations in the past? Please share your ideas in the comments section.

Disclaimer: The procedure to recover a dead individual’s email account depends on the concerned policies of the respective email providers. They are subject to change any time and we can not be held responsible for any loss. Please refer to the email provider’s official website before proceeding.

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