Will my family be able to access my emails when I die?
4 May 2021 by Amy Burton
We Answer Your Questions About All Aspects of Estate Planning
Though it may be uncomfortable to think about, it’s important to make a plan for how your finances and belongings will be handled following your death. Most people are familiar with the process of making a Will to distribute their assets, but there are also other things you need to consider, like what will happen to your email and other digital accounts. Will your family be able to access them? This is a step that is easy to overlook, but these accounts often include important documents, photos, and other precious content. As your local estate experts in Essex, Fisher Jones Greenwood are here to answer your questions about your digital assets. Please reach out to us today for more information.
What Happens to My Online Accounts When I Die?
In today’s digital world, we all have numerous online accounts, including email, social media, and banking accounts. What happens to these online accounts when you pass away? You may think the easiest way to ensure these accounts get into the right hands is to leave the login information with a loved one, but the truth is sharing your password information is against the terms of service of many online services. This means that if your family members or executor log in to your account following your death, they could be committing a serious offense. The best course of action is to set up detailed instructions for how these accounts are to be handled in your will. If you do not do so, your family or executor will need to contact the online service providers individually to determine how to recover the information from your accounts.
What Is a Digital Legacy?
A digital legacy is the digital information about a particular person that is left behind when they pass away. This can include any social media accounts, personal websites, photos, and more. Many people don’t often think about what happens to all this information when they die, but it’s something you should consider. What do you want your digital legacy to be? Would you rather all the information be deleted? Do you want your family to decide what to keep, like photos and other digital mementos? These are all things you should think about, and whatever you decide should be communicated in your will and to your family.
Be Sure to Include Emails & Photos in Your Will
Legal professionals urge everyone to include digital assets in their wills so that they have control over what happens to their online presence after they die. Many people forget this critical step, and this could mean that your family loses important items that you have stored online, such as photos, emails, and other digital assets. These assets are often just as treasured by families as physical possessions, so it’s essential that you include them in your will. In addition to losing digital mementos, your family members may be unable to access information necessary for the probate process, such as bank account information and emails that contain important documents.
Make a Personal Assets Log
One of the best ways to ensure family members are aware of all your online accounts after your passing is to keep a detailed personal assets log. This list should all of the digital assets or online accounts you have and additional details like the email address or phone number linked to each account. Be careful not to include passwords and other sensitive information in this list, as sharing your password may be a violation of the terms of service. Many online platforms state in the fine print not to share your credentials, and you don’t want your family members unknowingly violating this rule by logging in after your death. Rather than include sensitive information, just list all the online accounts you have. This will give your family enough details to start dealing with these accounts after your death.
How Can I Access the Email of a Deceased Loved One?
After a loved one has passed away, you may realise you need access to their email account to retrieve important information or digital keepsakes, but how do you gain access to their account? After all, email providers ensure these accounts are very secure to prevent hacking and fraud. Even if you know the account credentials and can log in to the account, we do not recommend doing so. Logging into another person’s account could violate the terms of service of the provider and may even be a criminal offense. The Computer Misuse Act of 1990 enacted very definitive guidelines about the unauthorized access or modification of data on a computer system and details the circumstance in which doing so becomes a crime. Your safest course of action to access the email account of a deceased relative is to contact the email provider directly and speak to them about gaining access to the account.
Contact Us for More Advice on Estate Planning
If you have concerns regarding your estate planning or have questions about how your executors will manage your digital assets, we encourage you to reach out to Fisher Jones Greenwood. Our trained legal advisors have years of experience in estate planning and can help you create a plan that includes all of your assets, both physical and digital. Please reach out to us today to discuss your needs on 01206 700113 or by email at [email protected].