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What happens to your emails after you die?

| Apr 18, 2013 | Estate Administration

Florida residents use their email accounts and social media profiles every day; yet we rarely consider what will happen to those accounts when we pass away. There are the practical considerations of course, such as how someone will access our email to monitor automatic bill paying. And then there are more personal concerns, such as what will happen to our personal correspondence and photos.

Compared with past generations, the digital age has allowed us to amass and preserve much more of this material than before. After we die, like shoebox full of letters we find in grandmother’s attic, friends and family will likely want to sort through our emails and Facebook accounts to find out more about our lives.

Internet privacy laws generally prevent companies from sharing data after someone passes away, even if it is stipulated in the person’s will. As a result, each company often builds their own system into the terms of service, which will be the controlling factor as a contract between the person who owned the account and the company.

For example, the Facebook terms of service require that a deceased user’s profile be either shut off or turned into a memorial of sorts, where people can post to the page but not edit the page or add content on behalf of the deceased user.

Recently, Google introduced a new feature to help deal with data from inactive accounts. Users can access a dashboard where they can select settings for how to disburse or destroy data after an account has been inactive for a set period of time. Google won’t allow someone else to take over the account, but you can transfer emails, documents, photos, and other things stored with Google to another person.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Google Lets Users Plan ‘Digital Afterlife’ By Naming Heirs,” Geoffrey A. Fowler, April 11, 2013

Information about estate planning can be found on our Florida estate and trust administration page.

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