How do digital accounts factor into Probate?

14th JULY 2022

What is a digital legacy?

These days, most of us use the Internet for at least one key part of our life; be that banking, shopping, socialising, or paying bills. Further, many people store their memories online in the form of digital photos on their iCloud or Google accounts. Some people regularly use online services such as gambling websites, PayPal, or reselling platforms like eBay.

With so many aspects of our lives taking place online, it should come as no surprise that most people leave behind a digital legacy that must be dealt with by the executor of their estate following their death. Your digital legacy includes all of the online services listed in the paragraph above, along with email addresses and more.

If you are the executor of a loved one’s estate, we recommend that you create a list of all digital assets owned by the deceased alongside their physical assets. Make a note of the email addresses or phone numbers associated with these accounts, but do not attempt to log in or guess passwords - this is considered a criminal offense in many cases.

For free initial advice call our will advisors or request a callback and we will contact you.

How to deal with a digital legacy as the executor of an estate

If you have been appointed the executor of a loved one’s estate, one of your first responsibilities following their death will be to notify organisations of the death. Aside from notifying the government, banks, and financial organisations, you will need to notify several digital agencies so that your loved one’s digital legacy can be protected.

Due to data protection laws, which differ by country and state, some social media accounts cannot be accessed following the death of an account owner and will need to simply be closed. This means that none of the content from that account will be released to the executor or next of kin. v

Below are instructions for how to notify various digital agencies of the death of an account owner.

Google

The process by which you can close a Google account following the owner’s death is lengthy, but some content from the account may be released to an authorised representative upon completion.

To begin this process, you will need to send some information by post to Google’s User Support team. This should include your full name, postal and email address, a photocopy of your passport or driving license, the gmail address of the deceased along with the content of an email you have received from this address, and the death certificate of the deceased.

When you have all of this information, you should post it to:

Google Inc
Gmail User Support - Descendants’ Accounts ℅ Google Custodian of Records
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View
CA 94043
USA

Microsoft

To close a Microsoft account owned by someone who has died, you will need to email the Microsoft Custodian of Records at msrecord@microsoft.com.

Yahoo

To request that Yahoo close your loved one’s account, you will need to post a letter with your request, the deceased’s Yahoo ID, evidence of your appointment as executor, and a copy of the death certificate.

You should post this information to:

Yahoo Legal Department
701 First Avenue
Sunnyvale
CA 94089-0703
USA

Facebook

On the Facebook website, there is a form available through which you can notify them of the death of an account owner. This account can either be removed completely or be memorialised, in which case their friends on Facebook will still be able to view the content posted on it following the death.

Only the executor or next of kin will be able to fill out this form, and neither option listed above will give you access to the account.

PayPal

PayPal will require a letter with proof of your identity and the account details of the deceased in order to close the account and release funds to the executor.

For free initial advice call our will advisors or request a callback and we will contact you.

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