How to Delete Email and Social Media Accounts When Your Loved One Dies

Filed Under (Probate) on 08-23-2012

Death of a spouse, probate help

By Marilyn McWilliams, JD

Part of “cleaning up” your loved one’s affairs means addressing his or her online life: social media and email channels.

There are a number of reasons to attend to this online world. First, email account access may be needed to stop online bill pay and subscriptions.  Second, you might want to shut down those accounts so that people trying to contact your loved one aren’t misled into thinking he or she is still alive. 

Finally, using Facebook, you can let the world know of the death and memorialize your loved one’s page.  This helps family and friends stay in touch with each other and keep the memories alive.

Here is a list of services to explore, with related links to online policies.

1.    Google gmail:  With Gmail linked to a wide variety of Google applications such as online calendars, Google documents and others, it’s possible that your loved one opened an account and used it even if it wasn’t his or her primary email.

To access his or her account(s), follow Google’s policies.

2.    Microsoft Hotmail: Microsoft has a “next of kin” process that allows you to read your deceased loved one’s emails (everything ending in @msn.com, @hotmail.com, @live.com, and @windowslive.com) and shut down the service.   You will need a death certificate and personal identification.

Start by emailing: msrecord@microsoft.com. Read more about MSN’s next of kin process.

3.    Yahoo: Yahoo’s terms of service state that email contents cannot be transferred (i.e. read or looked at), even in the event of a death. However, you can close the account. Read more

4.    Local internet service providers: Contact your local ISP for individual processes and policies.

5.    Facebook: You can fill out the same form to both inform Facebook of an account owner’s death and to memorialize the account. Also: learn the difference  between deleting, deactivating and memorializing an account.

6.    LinkedIn: To close an account, this professional networking site asks you to verify the death and then submit a form.

For more information, see Life After Death – A Legal and Practical Guide for Surviving Spouses by Marilyn W. McWilliams, J.D.





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