It may seem funny and insignificant but do you really know what happens to your email when you die? Here’s what popular email providers would say about the issue.
Hotmail has a policy of deleting email accounts if they are not touched for 270 days. If you die, your next of kin would be able to access your account within that period by proving their identity and supplying a death certificate.
A spokesperson said: “Microsoft’s policy allows next of kin to gain access to the content of the account of the deceased upon proving their own identity and relationship. Hotmail does not have an option to specify in advance that they do not want the contents of their email accessed by a next of kin.”
Gmail will also allow the next of kin or executor of estate to apply for access to a deceased user’s email account. However, they need more identification than Hotmail. The person would have to prove their own identity and supply a death certificate as well as proof of an email conversation between them and the deceased.
If the deceased user was underage, the next of kin would also have to provide a copy of their birth certificate.
Gmail does not delete the deceased user’s account, but says the next of kin could choose to do so after gaining access to it.
Yahoo! has the strictest policy when it comes to the data of deceased users. The company will let the user’s next of kin ask for the account to be closed, but will not give them access to it. It says users who want their emails to be inherited should make arrangements in their will.
A spokesperson said: “The commitment Yahoo! makes to every person who signs up for a Yahoo! Mail account is to treat their email as a private communication and to treat the content of their messages as confidential.
Facebook has a policy called memorialisation that applies to the profiles of deceased users. Once the user’s death is confirmed, their profile can be turned into a sort of virtual shrine. When that happens, the profile is locked so no one can log into it and sensitive information (including status updates) is removed.
“Internet users who want to be sure their email and other online accounts are accessible to their legal heirs may want to work with their attorneys to plan an offline process for such access as part of their estate planning process.”