Accessing Email After Death

March 28, 2014
Lindsay M. Schoeneberger

Recently we posted an article about Death in the Digital Age.  But, what happens if a loved one fails to make these arrangements and you must have access to their digital accounts? 

Google has recently developed a method that allows people to gain access to a deceased person’s accounts.  Google has taken steps to ensure its users’ privacies are protected while understanding that the need for someone to access a decedent’s account post mortem may occasionally arise. 

In order to gain access, you must first be an authorized representative of the deceased user and complete the two-stage process.  Part I includes providing Google with personal information about yourself, information about the account, and the decedent’s death certificate.  The second part occurs only after you have passed the minimal threshold of the first stage.  Google will then communicate directly with the authorized representative to give them further instructions.  For complete information on this, you can view Google’s instructions here. It is likely that more and more websites and social media sites will take Google’s lead and develop similar policies to address the importance of our digital assets.

Lindsay Schoeneberger is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Estate Planning.