4 minute read

What Happens to Your Email Account After You Die?

Curious about what happens to email accounts after death? We’ve got answers to help with your digital estate planning.

We manage so much of our lives online. According to research from last year on internet behavior, the average person has 70 to 80 passwords. And for every account you keep online, you receive regular emails. But you've probably never thought about what will happen to your email accounts—and everything in them—if you died.

If you run a business, you may want someone to wrap up existing orders or continue them in your absence. Even if you keep only a personal email, you may need to pass information on to your loved ones. Or, you might want your email account deleted completely. Trust & Will has all of the information you need on managing your email account after death.

Passing Down Your Business Email Accounts

Whether you're a freelancer, entrepreneur, run a family business, or an Etsy store, the email you use for your business contains sensitive information that should get into the right hands in the event of your death. To make sure that happens, you have a couple of options:

Leave informal instructions for someone you trust 

As much as we don't like to think about it, life is unpredictable. Anything can happen at any time. If you don't already have a plan for the future of your online communications, you may want to leave a note behind with instructions for logging into your most important accounts.

You can leave a handwritten note where you know someone will be able to find it, or a typed document saved to your computer, either on the desktop or filed with similar documents.

If you name someone to take responsibility for your email account, this note then takes on the role of a Holographic Will. That is a type of Will, handwritten and signed, designating someone as the Beneficiary of property or assets after death. Those assets can be physical, like a house or an expensive piece of jewelry, or digital, like an email account.

Leaving your business accounts to someone in your Will

Sometimes, you need something more formal (and legally binding) than a note with instructions for how you want your online accounts managed when you're gone.

If you're a business owner, entrepreneur, or creative professional, many logistics get sorted, and communications happen through email. Not having a plan in place for what will happen to that account could be detrimental to the future of your business while causing a headache for your loved ones.

If you have a business partner, child, or someone close to you whom you frequently discuss your business with, you may want to designate them to take over your stake in the company. To pass your business on to a Beneficiary, you would make a Specific Bequest in your Will. To leave your email account to someone in your Will, you would list it as a digital asset.

Keeping Your Personal Information Private

The email you use to run your business may not be the only account you work from. For everything not relating to your business or work, you might use a personal email account.

Our personal emails are a sort of catch-all in our lives. Everything we're involved in, from meetings and discussion threads to newsletters and subscription programs, and don't forget the random check-in from someone you haven't talked to in six months, winds up in our inbox. No wonder things keep going missing. There may also be some correspondence in your email account that you would like to keep for your eyes only.

As more of our affairs continue to transition to our online spaces, access to our digital assets after death continues to grow in importance. The Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (RUFADAA) is a law developed to provide Executors of an Estate, Beneficiaries, and attorneys access to someone's digital assets after their death or incapacitation.

Almost every state has passed RUFADAA laws that give a person's family or Executor the right to access and manage their loved one's digital assets after their death. Here's how you can help to keep your personal email (and all its contents) private:

Delete your account before death

This may not be the most practical solution, but it is the most obvious. If you really don't want anyone to access your email account after death, make sure it gets deleted before then.

Trust someone to delete the account after you die

Do you have someone in mind who you trust with your life? How about with your email login? Leave your credentials for your spouse or other entrusted person so that they can go into your account and delete it after your death.

Wait for your account to be deleted for inactivity

Most popular email providers delete inactive accounts after a certain amount of time. Not all providers work the same or have the same threshold. If no one can gain access to your email account after you die, it will simply continue to exist in the cloud until the provider eventually deletes it.

Including Your Digital Assets in Your Will

If you're an average internet user with 70 to 80 passwords, or maybe even more, digital assets can play a big role in your Estate Plan.

A Will has a unique role in protecting your digital assets by allowing you to designate who gets control of your data in the event of your death. Not only does that include your business and personal email accounts, but also your social media accounts, loyalty programs, and entertainment staples like Netflix, Hulu, and Disney+, just to name a few.

With each state enacting its own Estate and RUFADAA laws, it can be difficult to predict what might happen to your digital assets if you don't plan for the future. Protect your digital assets, including your business and personal email accounts, when you create a Will. Trust & Will is the leading name in online Estate Planning and can have you up and running in just 10 minutes. Get started today!