What Happens To My Email Accounts When I Die?



Accessing a deceased person's mail

If you need ac

Accessing a deceased person’s mail

If you need access to the Gmail account content of an individual who has passed away, in rare cases we may be able to provide the contents of the Gmail account to an authorized representative of the deceased person. At Google, we’re keenly aware of the trust users place in us, and we take our responsibility to protect the privacy of people who use Google services very seriously. Any decision to provide the contents of a deceased person’s email will be made only after a careful review. If you are the authorized representative of a deceased person and wish to proceed with an application to obtain the contents of a deceased person’s Gmail account, please carefully review the following information regarding our two stage process: Part 1 We require the following information: 1. Your full name 2. Your physical mailing address 3. Your email address 4. A photocopy of your government-issued ID or driver’s license 5. The Gmail address of the deceased person 6. The death certificate of the deceased person. If the document is not in English, please provide a certified English translation that has been prepared by a competent translator and notarized 7. The following information from an email message that you have received at your email address, from the Gmail address in question:

• The full header from the email message. See instructions on how to find headers in Gmail and other webmail email providers. Copy everything from ‘Delivered-To:’ to ‘Content-Type:’ • The entire content of the message

Mail or fax this information to: Google Inc.
Gmail User Support –

Decedents’ Accounts 
c/o Google Custodian of Records 
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
 Mountain View, CA 94043
 Fax: 650-396-4502

Phone: 650-253-0000

Part 2 After a review, you will be notified by email and informed whether we will be able to move beyond Part 1 to the next steps of the process. In some cases, this waiting period may take up to a few months. During this process, please be aware that Google will not delete the deceased person’s account before responding to your request. If we are able to move forward based on our preliminary review, we will send further instructions outlining Part 2. Part 2 will require you to get additional legal documents, including an order from a U.S. court and/or additional materials.

Please note that submitting these materials will not guarantee that we will be able to provide Gmail content so we strongly recommend not embarking on Part 2 until you hear back from us regarding Part 1. Because of our concerns for user privacy, if we determine that we cannot provide the Gmail content, we will not be able to share further details about the account or discuss our decision. Once again, we offer our condolences to you at this time and appreciate your patience and understanding.

Via Google

Google also goes a step further with something called “Inactive Account Manager,” which is a way to either share or delete your account after a set period of inactivity. Here’s how they describe it:

What should happen to your photos, emails and documents when you stop using your account? Google puts you in control.

You might want your data to be shared with a trusted friend or family member, or, you might want your account to be deleted entirely. There are many situations that might prevent you from accessing or using your Google account. Whatever the reason, we give you the option of deciding what happens to your data.

Using Inactive Account Manager, you can decide if and when your account is treated as inactive, what happens with your data and who is notified.

Step 1: Timeout period You set a timeout period, after which your account can be treated as inactive. The timeout period starts with your last sign-in to your Google account.

Step 2: Alert me Inactive Account Manager will alert you via text message and optionally email before the timeout period ends.

Step 3: Notify contacts and share data Add trusted contacts who should be made aware that you are no longer using your account. You can also share data with them if you like.

Step 4: Optionally delete account If you wish, instruct Google to delete your account on your behalf.

To set up Inactive Account Manager, go to your Settings Page, click on Data Tools and then click “Set up Inactive Account Manager”



If you do abandon or explicitly close your account, exactly when it’s returned to the available pool of names varies greatly.

For example, if you close your account with your ISP, they could make your ID available again the very next day if they wanted to — and I’m sure some do.

Most free services like Yahoo! and others wait at least 30 days, and most wait much longer.

Use Backblaze B2 Cloud Storage Buckets to Keep an Organized Archive of Your Emails

Once you have your email data downloaded to your computer, it’s best practice to make sure that you have at least one copy of your data stored off-site in the cloud. Storing it in the cloud alongside two local copies ensures you never lose all those important emails.

A simple way to do this is with Backblaze B2, where you can upload and organize your files in buckets. To upload your files to a bucket, follow the steps below.

  1. Sign in to your Backblaze account.
  2. In the left hand column, select “Buckets” under the section “B2 Cloud Storage.”
  3. Click on the button “Create a bucket.”
  4. In the next step, you will need to create a unique name for your bucket and select some settings for it, like if it will be public or private or if you would like to enable encryption.
  5. Once the bucket is created, it will take you to a page where you can upload your files. You will want to drag and drop the email files you want to upload to it. If the MBOX file is too large to drag and drop into the bucket, you can use a third-party integration like Cyberduck to facilitate the upload. You can read the guide to using Cyberduck for Backblaze B2 bucket uploads here.

Alternatively, if you’re not worried about organizing or working with your email archives and just want to know they’re stored away safely, you can keep your downloaded files on your computer. If you follow this route, remember to sign up for a backup service that makes a copy of all of your computer’s files in the cloud. In the case of any data loss, a service like Backblaze Computer Backup would have a copy of all of your data ready for you to restore. If your email applications are locally stored on your computer, Backblaze will automatically back up your emails. You can learn more about how this works here. This approach will take up more room on your computer, but it’s a simple path to peace of mind.

From here, your MBOX file with all your emails from your family, friends, and reminders to yourself (We all have those!) will be safe in the cloud. If you ever want to pull out the archive and read the emails you saved, remember to use the third-party tools mentioned above. What’s important is that you have all your memories stored, safely with a provider who will ensure their redundancy and reliability.

Have questions or want to see a guide for an email client we didn’t mention above? Feel free to let us know in the comments!


Figure out what an old email address is attached to

Before you eliminate an old email, inventory the services—social media, gaming, video streaming, and so on—that rely on it as a login credential. Once you’ve created a list of your accounts, look up their policies on changing emails. For example, some sites will send you a verification link as soon as you enter your password and new email address. Others may require that you call and offer a form of identification they already have on file, such as a credit card or a driver’s license.

As a rule of thumb, the more secure the site has to be, the more bureaucratic hoops you can expect to jump through. That’s a good thing, as it helps prevent identity fraud.

This is also a good time to do a general house-cleaning of online accounts you don’t use. I wound up deleting several old shopping site accounts because changing my email address took more trouble than my membership was worth. Similarly, I don’t think many web-commenter accounts I made back in high school were worth preserving.

For extra protection, change your passwords as you go and install a vault program to remember them for you. Having a digital password manager saved me on a few occasions; it meant I could keep all my codes on hand despite the fact that I didn’t have my email. A keeper can also generate different secure passwords for each site so you don’t fall back on the insecure practice of recycling the same phrase over and over again.

[Related: How to get started using a password manager]

Finally, enable multi-factor authentication, also called two-factor authentication or 2FA, wherever you can. 2FA is the online equivalent of requiring two forms of ID. For example, if you forget your password, you might have to answer a security question and also use your phone to reply to a text. Enabling 2FA meant that, even though my email was dead, I had an avenue to get into my accounts.

When someone else has your old email address

It’s important to realize that when someone comes along and requests your abandoned email address, they get a completely new account. There is nothing in that account that relates to your old account except the email address/login ID.

Remember, as part of the closing process, the service deleted all of your stuff before they closed it. It’s gone. You can’t get it, and neither can the person who now has your old email address.


What they will get is any new email sent to your old email address. Deleting your account did nothing to tell the world that the email address isn’t yours anymore. Even if you did try to broadcast the change, it’s very likely that not everyone got the message or updated their records. Chances are your old email address is still in someone’s address book or included on some mailing list somewhere.

The new account owner will get anything sent to your old address.

And he’ll be sending “From:” your old address.

I hope that’s all OK because there’s nothing you can do about it.

OK, there is one thing.


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