What Happens to Your Email When You're Dead?

Posted on June 1, 2005

After you are dead and gone from this world what happens to your email, your blogs, your social networking accounts? If it is hosted on a free account it might just sit there for a very long time before eventually being removed by the host. Does anyone else have the password besides you? Will your email provider turn your emails over to a relative? Is that what you would want to happen? The answer is somewhat unclear. Here is how a few top email providers respond to death requests.

AOL has assigned a full-time person to help with these kinds of questions. They also require a death certificate before they will release account information to the legal beneficiary or the estate representative.

MSN's Hotmail will provide a disk with data after it verifies the relatives are related to the deceased. Brooke Richardson, MSN lead product manager, said in a statement, "We have tried to institute a policy that is very focused on privacy, but at the same time honors the requests of bereaved family members."

And Mercury News said in an article (no longer available) that Yahoo would not comment on its policy. However, in another situation Yahoo terminates email accounts if a user dies and won't turn over the emails without a court order.
After Lance Cpl. Justin Ellsworth of Michigan was killed Nov. 13 while inspecting a bomb in Iraq, his father, John Ellsworth, wanted access to his son's Yahoo email account. But Yahoo, whose policy is to terminate email accounts upon a user's death, would not give him the material until a probate judge ordered the Sunnyvale company to do so.
Yahoo has a help page here explaining what can be done when a Yahoo account owner passes away.

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