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Gaining Access to E-Mail Following a Relative's Death
Amidst the turmoil that usually surrounds a loved one's death, it is easy to overlook simple practicalities, such as how to access the deceased's e-mail.
That's why, in an online world, it is important to pass on the relevant passwords so that those left behind can take care of outstanding business. Recommended places to leave the information are in a safe deposit box, with a lawyer, or in a computer file that has a password relatives will figure out.
If the e-mail password can't be located, you will probably have to go to the e-mail company. According to the Wall Street Journal, most big e-mail providers turn accounts over to next of kin given sufficient proof -- but the process can be time-consuming.
- Google's Gmail asks for a number of documents, including a death certificate, a document giving you power of attorney, and the full header of an e-mail sent to you from the account.
- Microsoft's Hotmail will provide the deceased's e-mail on a CD to those who can show they are next of kin; fax 650-693-7061 for details.
- Hotmail and AOL will also provide e-mail on CD to next of kin, in return for documentation.
- Yahoo won't grant access without a court order, claiming that its user agreement to protect users' privacy applies, even after death.
Also, keep in mind that free e-mail accounts often disappear if they aren't used, sometimes as quickly as a month.
To read the Wall Street Journal article, click here. (online subscription required)
For more advice on making computer information available following death, see "Make Sure Your Legacy Includes Your Computer Passwords".