What the Tech: Leaving behind your Google account

How you can create a digital will for your family and friends.
How you can create a digital will for your family and friends.
Published: Apr. 10, 2023 at 9:57 AM EDT
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LANSING, Mich. (WILX) - It’s one of those things people don’t like to think about: have you ever wondered what happens to all your online accounts after you die? What happens to all those contacts, emails, passwords, and social media accounts?

Millions of people leave all that data in limbo every year. Leaving behind your digital information, your usernames, and passwords is tricky. You can write down all of your user names and passwords and give to a friend or include them with a will.

But Google has a tool for this that not many people know about. It’s called “Inactive Account Manager”.

Here’s how it works

You’ll choose who you want to share your information with if you pass away. You’ll decide what information you’d like to share from your Google account. Share your email, calendar, contacts, photos, and anything else you feel is important.

You can also write a quick note to each person they’ll receive along with the information. They’ll have access to the Google files for three months after your death.

So, how does Google know when you die?

Good question. If you stop using your Gmail or Google accounts for 4 months, Google will try to reach you by email and text messages to find out if you’re okay. If you do not respond in two months, Google will assume you have died and your account will be marked as ‘inactive.’ Google will then send out the messages you left for your trusted contacts along with download links to the information you’ve left them.

Google also lets you respond to emails from the grave

Sort of. If your Google account is marked inactive, Gmail will auto-reply to emails with a response you write now. It’s something everyone should consider doing because when someone dies, it’s difficult to gain access to accounts that don’t belong to you.

Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Apple won’t close accounts unless you provide proof such as a death certificate. That is a hassle and a big responsibility to leave behind for your loved ones.

Google will begin deleting all inactive accounts on June 1 this year. That means all e-mails, photos, and documents will be deleted if the owner hasn’t signed in to Google in six months unless they’ve set up contacts using the activity manager.

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