Estate and Elder Law

Should You Add Provisions for Email and Social Networking Accounts in a Will?

An article on an Australian news website run by Fox ( recently posed the question, “What happens to email and social networking profiles when you die?” Assuming that the person dies without telling someone how to access all his or her account information, what can family members do to retrieve final messages, look for clues in mysterious deaths, or even delete or memorialize accounts? Here’s what the article found:
  • Hotmail: Next of kin can access the email account by proving their identity and providing the account owner's death certificate.  But, the next of kin should act quickly because an account inactive for 270 days will be deleted. 
  • Gmail: Next of kin can access the email account by the same method as that for a Hotmail account, with the additional requirement of providing proof of email correspondence between the next of kin and the account owner.
  • Yahoo: Next of kin is not allowed to access the email account of a deceased account owner unless the deceased account owner specifically stated otherwise in his or her will.
  • Facebook: Accounts can be memorialized, as discussed here:
  • Myspace: Accounts are handled on a case-by-case basis.