Who Owns Your Email When You Die?

527px-Email.svgWhen we die, our car, home, jewelry, and personal belongings go the people named in our will, the legal document that states how our personal property is distributed or given to other people and organizations after we die. In our wills, we name (identify) an executor, who is responsible for carrying out (making happen) our wishes after we’re gone. (For people who die without writing a will, there is a process called “probate,” in which the government decides what happens to your assets (things you own that are worth money)).

But who owns our email, Facebook accounts, information stored in a cloud server (shared digital storage), blogs, online shopping accounts, photo-sharing accounts, and other digital information? Right now, in most states in the U.S., the companies that host them do, such as Google and Facebook.

Most of the digital information online is governed by (must follow the rules or laws of) the company that houses (provides space for) that information. The trouble is, there is little or no uniformity (being the same or consistent) across company policies. Only a few U.S. states — five so far — have passed laws to help clarify (make clear) what happens after death and there is a need for laws to catch up with (try to reach the same level or place as) changing technology.

Right now in the U.S., the Uniform Law Commission (ULC) is working to come up with a set of federal (national) laws that would help with this confusing situation. The ULC is not a part of the U.S. government. It is a non-profit (not intended to make money) organization with representatives from all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia (Washington D.C.), Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The ULC does not make laws, but it recommends language that legislators (lawmakers) can use to create laws.

Have you considered what will happen to your digital information after you die? Should your executor have access to it, just like your other personal things? Are there laws where you live to govern access to that information?

~ Lucy

Graphic Credit: Email from Wikipedia


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24 Responses to Who Owns Your Email When You Die?

  1. Dan says:

    Hey everyone.

    After reading Lucy’s post I made a research.

    In Italy we have a national law, and at European level there is the ENISA (European Network and Information Security Agency) protecting personal data.

    I have not considered what will happen to my data after I die, and frankly I do not care because is all garbage. Moreover, hasn’t the NSA all my stuff already?

    I was looking at a Google page where they explain what to do in case you lost someone. It is a long process and it is not always possible giving the information.
    But, they only give you the passwords to the account, and only you can eliminate the data, otherwise it remains always online.

    Thank you Lucy

  2. emiliano says:

    Yes Lucy, interesting post and question?

    It makes me think just now and I don´t know what to say….and that´s very odd Emiliano without words, ja,ja, Cuca said I don´t clouse
    my mouth to speak even under the wáter.

    Is she right?
    Yes, she is right, I think, as always she did.

    So I am going to look inside my mind and I will ask myself
    about that….

    I hope to be here again soon.

    Hum, hum….interesting subject Lucy, thanks a lot dear.


  3. emiliano says:

    Don´t take me long to think about it, and may be writing so much here and in bloger + of google it is
    clear that I have not any will about so many notes.

    As Dan said to me it could be the same, if google or ESL like to have the notes, it will be good if some one
    read something written by the dead Emiliano and take something good of the notes.

    In fact I don´t know anything about what could happens but I have to confess that never I thought years
    ago that this could be possible. Some of my thoughts and notes in a place where other people could read
    some of my writings, good or bad, even some photos I liked to post?.

    That is good for me and I don´t care anything about it, even it please me that idea if I think in it.

    It is a pity I have not grandsons or granddaughters that could read the battles of their grandfather, but
    I could do nothing about the subject at least I adopt some l/grandittle children as a grandson/daughter.
    Sure if I say something to Cuca about this idea she could think I am mad, but if I have my only will
    it could be possible to do that and left them all my personal belongings and the ideas poured into the
    Yes, it could be really good but now it is not possible my hands are tied by the circunstances.


  4. Dan says:

    Hey Guys,

    Today I was on my balcony when the 90 years old woman living not so far waved at me from her balcony.

    I was quick to get there, thinking she needed help. She was good. As she does with everyone visiting we where soon sitting outside on the terrace.

    She made me open a bottle of wine (I do not drink, but for her I did it).

    She told me how things worked properly during the fascist occupation under Mussolini “at the time everyone did his/her duty” she says. As an example she told me how the streets where neatly cleaned early in the mornings in Milan. “now they are faking it, at noon they are still cleaning” she told me. hahahaha

    After a while talking about teeth she started making a sound with her teeth, I do not know the verb for that action.

    You know, when you hit the upper teeth against the lower ones. She went “TACK TACK TACK” to show me she still has all her teeth. hahahahah.

    I just wanted to share with you guys this little experience of mine.

    that’s all. thanks

  5. Betty says:

    Thank you to Lucy, Emiliano and Dan who appeared above while I am typing this.

    I found it so interesting and funny reading all your articles and messages that I want to write something down before I go out to see my father.

    That’s one of the reasons I am writing here, Lucy.

    When I evaporate from earth, ESLPOD.com owns my writings. I don’t want to bring it to see God. He will say I talk so much rubbish.

    Emiliano you can be sure that the whole world inherit your stories. A very well done to you.

    Many thanks again to you all.

    Best Regards
    Betty 🙂

  6. Lassana says:

    Hi Everyone,

    It’s a good question which I had never think about it. Our datas, photos, videos, spread on the internet websites, I think all these informations remains stored on the internet website’s servers.

    I think these informations can remain for a very long period or maybe, it can not remove at all ! like cloud servers.

    I think the best way to handle our informations stored on the internet websites, is to give all our passwords to a confident person of our family or our best friend, in order to allow to them, to remove or recover all our personnal informations.

    But don’t know laws about this area, even here in France.

    I have just find a topic (here in France) about this issue. It’s very interesting, but it’s not an official document coming from officials, it coming just from an internet site.

    Here is an excerpt of the person who had write this topic ” if you stored any information on cloud server and that you die after, these are the suppliers of this service which recover the properties of your datas “.

    If this is right, I prefer give all my passwords to my wife in order she handle my datas !

    See you soon Lucy and all guys !


  7. Ben says:

    Every post you write,Lucy,typically is able to attract me a lot,in particular this one which made me interested and wired actually.
    This sort of thing has never come up in my mind.But in reality,it do become a serious problem in my country as well,which we have to pay much attention to.
    This post has opened my mind and reminded me of my best friend who unfortunately died in 2009.
    And from that time,his QQ,a communication tool used on the Internet in China,has never shown on line.
    So this post actually draws my attention and I do a search using Google.As Lucy said in this post,I am afraid the companys that host online accounts
    have the rights to own them if their exowner died.For instance,Staff in QQ company state that the owners of QQ accounts only have the rights to use rather than ownership.
    Moreover,some news I found freak me out.The owner of a weapon which looked like a sword in one online game and worthed more than 100000yuan(about $20000) died suddenly.
    And No one knew the password of his account.Then no one got the money.
    It seems to me that at least it is not fair and kind of huge lost to his relatives,like his wife or his parents.These kind of stuff,I guess,should be regarded as virtual property.
    And as Lucy said in this post,some sort of laws should be come up with to solve this social problem.

  8. kelly says:

    Hi~ everyone.
    First of all, Thanks Lucy for this wonderful and thought provoking question. as well as thanks ‘eslpodcast team’ for this Great website!!!
    I’m pretty new on this website
    But I couldn’t help going out this website without any mention about this article which is treating the important issue that has to be considered by the national law.
    We’re living in digital era when is everything goes to the internet : selling and buying, communication and interaction with people, studying and research, even raising pet(It’s cute though) and gardening.
    I think afterwards the speed of moving to the internet is becoming faster and everything will be built in digital world in the future like scary science fiction. Haha.
    Therefore, at this time we need the law that controls our belongings on the online for sure. I think this would be just matter of time.

    Now days, if not that future, many people make money by using blogging, Facebook, twitter. Once they become power bloggers or power users, many companies try to contact them to advertise their products. One of my acquaintances earns $300,000!!! a year from blogging. After his death, who owns his blog and emails that are able to earn great amount of money? (I wish I can, ahaha) I think the digital information is not just the digital number vanished after death but our precious assets to be kept.

    There is a need of laws that catch up with this changing and I assume that there are some movements to make the laws in somewhere certainly.
    Just a matter of time!!!

    Best regards

  9. Astheart says:

    It is a very interesting problem. Knowing that all things you “hung” on the Internet will stay there forever no matter if you delete them or not. I think one cannot do very much about it. When you die, the whole Internet activity of yours stays in the cyberspace. And, it may be better that anybody cannot open your profiles and files as I think what you read on the Internet is so private (sometimes more than you would accept) because everybody feels safe hidden behind his PC and that’s why he is able to express thoughts that he would never ever say publicly. In my opinion, it is a part of your mental property, and unless such a kind of property isn’t legally protected from being misused or stolen (then it could be counted in the heritage), it is just a piece of your soul, and nobody has a right to read it.

  10. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Hello people! I don’t understand why you are worried about things you will leave here after dying. The coffin doens’t have drawers to keep your belongings, there is no store in heaven when you can by things. When I die I ask my wife to burry me imediately. I don’t want people crying on my dead body, because I can’t neither talk, I can’t smile, nor exchange ideas. What do you think about these thinkings? Am I right, or should I ask a long funeral with people saying I was the best friend ever, I was great when alive, I was good hearted, I was intelligent and so on? If there are people who see me like a good guy may they say everything while I am alive, while I can hear them and say you are a good lier. As Bible says, don’t keep treasures on Earth because your heart will be where your treasures are. Better ask a peaceful place in God’s side. Thanks.
    Aecio from beautiful green and yellow Brazil.

  11. Betty says:

    Dear All who have written above

    Good Morning!

    It is a sunny day today in Hong Kong. I hope it is sunny where you are.

    I agree with you all so much that I felt compelled to write again here.

    Like what Astheart says, “it (the emails) is just a piece of your soul, and nobody has a right to read it”.

    I had to sort out what one of my relatives left on earth after his sudden departure from this world. I had the password to his email account but I would never attempt to do anything about it.

    I didn’t want to touch anything unnecessarily. The email account will remain in this world forever. That’s part of him continues to live on forever.

    Aécio Flávio Perim I can’t agree with you more. I want to tell you now when you are alive to read this message that you are absolutely right, the coffin doens’t have drawers to keep the body’s belongings.

    I have always enjoyed reading your comments. I have always imagined that Brazil is very yellow and green until yesterday.

    I suddenly became cleverer than the day before yesterday that I thought of “yellow and green” could be the colours of your country flag.

    I searched the internet to find out the answer. Yes, your country’s flag is so yellow and green.

    The flag is very beautiful. I believe that Brazil is very beautiful also.

    See you all again soon.

    Best Regards

    Betty 🙂

  12. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Betty, Brazil is green for its forest and yellow for the gold underground. I have to mention the blue color due to the Atlantic ocean that surounds my country, providing Brazilian people the most beaches in the world. Betty, If you want to know Brazil you must come as soon you can because time passes very quickly and when you wake up you will be so old that it is not worth doing it. I agree with you when you say inside the body there is a treasure richer than material belongings, but this treasure is supposed to belong to God and you will be argued about it after youy die. Every action in Earth will be the document you present before God so that you deserve the Heaven with God forever the eternity or with devil in Hell for eternity as well. It was very awesome to meet you here.
    My best wishes for you and your family.
    Aecio from beautiful blue, green and yellow Brazil.

  13. emiliano says:

    He Aecio, I have read always each and every one of your wise notes.
    Yes, wise, there is not one that wasn´t wise and despite they are short, better, short
    and good, twice good. I have read some two or three times as I like to think about
    the subjects you toche.

    Sorry my friend, first I thought you were a priest teaching us peace, good heart, nice
    ideas about how we have to be, and so forth.
    Yes, I thought you were a nice priest, giving us nice wise advises.

    But today I have read you have a wife so it is difficult to be a catholic priest with
    a wife.
    Have you any children?
    Sorry Aecio, but reading your wisdom advises about us, humans now I like to
    know a Little more about our dear Bloger Aecio Fravio from beautiful Brazil.

    Thanks dear and sorry, reply if you like but there is not any
    necessity of doing that.

    Emiliano, from the dry hard meseta of Castilla, Madrid, Spain.

  14. emiliano says:

    By the way Aecio, I agree with you absolutely.
    Naked we were born and naked we will go, just
    without anything.

    So, yes, wise note my dear friend.


  15. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Betty, excuse me but I carried out the text above to my computer files and rewrote it more comprehensible and without grammar errors. See now what it is like:
    Betty, Brazil is green for its forest and yellow for the gold underground. I have to mention the blue color due to the Atlantic Ocean that surrounds my country, providing Brazilian people the most beautiful and warmest beaches in the world. Betty, if you want to know Brazil you must come as soon as you can because time goes by very quickly and when you wake up you will be so old that it is not worth coming. I agree with you when you say inside the body there is a treasure richer than any material belongings, but this treasure is supposed to belong to God and you will be argued about it after you die. Every action you take in Earth will be the document you present before God so that you either deserve the Heaven with God for eternity or with devil in Hell for eternity as well. It was very awesome to meet you here.
    My best wishes for you and your family.
    Aecio from beautiful blue, green and yellow Brazil.
    Did you like it more?

  16. emiliano says:

    I don´t care at all what of me could figure in the Web after I pass away, so here I post something I have written today in the other blog.
    Of course in the Web for long, I hope.

    As recently I mentioned here in this my dear blog, something about the movie Flashdance that had huge success in the 80s with awesome music for those years and a way to roll musical numbers frame style for video clips that have been subsequently making.
    He wanted to see it again, and as well to see conditions?, Where if it was found in pirate plan, and now that method is not going after the Inquisition was established on the Web, as almost total resorted Amazón always, my beloved Amazón where I find almost everything I want.
    In three days I had the movie at home, and another Footloose dance music and I have not seen yet.
    This afternoon we have seen the movie the gatufos, pussy, cat (asleep despite the loud music) Cuca and me.
    Argument is simple, it has almost, just dance and music it has very good images and great choreography and downright good photograph.
    Exits the industrial city of Pittsburgh, where industrial age it no longer is, with its steel and its great Ohio river joins another major river right in town.

    From the film, which has made ??me like it again, what surprised me is see a street dance in which a boy makes the pass that became quite famous MICHAEL JACKSON wherein ada back and looks forward. MJ’s amazing it embroidered and in all their actions.
    I was intrigued, and asked myself “who was before the chicken or the egg”, I have consulted and have seen that the two videos of Thriller were filmed M.Jackson the same year Flashdance its premiered.
    Original and patented by Michael Jackson or was in the movie where the genius was inspired.

    Well it seems that neither one thing nor the other. It was a street dance that practiced by the youth of color in those years and was refined and stylized by the brilliant Michael, and likewise took in Flashdance.
    But the choreography of this dance or step called Moonwalk and genius Michael Jackson dance in this film with the same name “MOONWALK” MICHAEL JACKSON dances it so well, see what we can read about it.

    (see the Wikipedia…I have done it and extract a lot of information about the pass dance)

    In the wiki site, there is all about the dance Moonwalk…..of M.Jackson too, but the dance was too much old.
    I love dancing in general, also of course the classic.
    Flamenco, ballet, folk, etc..
    And this information has me very well and I want to share it, enjoy watching MJ doing this step it overboard.
    Greetings and always enjoy it.


  17. Morteza says:

    I just can say: it not importat for me that what will happen to my e-mail when I dead. because after that you will enter to the world which no facebook no email and not anything else can be useful for you!!

    I suggest don’t think about it, because sooner or late we will meet the death and we should prepare ourself for that moment and the world after death.

  18. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Emiliano, thanks for the compliments though I don’t deserve them. I have never been a priest and I even follow a religion. The life was my teacher, the world is the best school ever. I agree with you when you say “naked we were born and naked we will go withou anything” wise words. I know people who acumulate treasures on earth and leave here after life, so why acumulate here if averything will be left here. Am I right? It is a matter of reasoning to think this way.
    If you want some more subjects, please get my account email aecioflavioperim@gmail.com and I will be grateful having you as my reader.
    Aecio from blue, yellow and green beautiful Brazil.
    May God be with you all.

  19. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Emiliano, I have forgotten to answer your question about me to have children. Yes, my first wife gave birth to four chilcren. They are now grown up, married, three of them gave me granchildren. Remember I don’t even follow a religion, but I have respectful feelings toward God and people. Everyone is important to me, everyone is one of my friends, and I try to help everyone that needs me. Is it a good policy?
    Aecio from blue, yellow and green beautiful Brazil.
    Let the childrem come to me.

  20. Joshua Blanca says:

    I am so glad that I found a website like this. I can see how people share their thoughts in a healthy and beneficial manner. I’m currently in a struggle of improving my english and I think this website would help me a lot. I enjoy reading your notes and I am learning a lot from it. Thanks and God Bless.

  21. emiliano says:

    Thanks a lot Aecio, even more giving us your mail.

    Just a momento ago I have sent you a hi, how are you?

    I think it could be good if we be in touch using this English language
    that we like so much to learn.

    Thanks Jeff/Lucy to share Aecio´s mail with all of us.

    Mine is: solosencasa@hotmail.com

    Every one of you that like to send me a how are you? are absolutely
    free to do it, thnks in advance.

    Joshua Blanca, you are very welcome here, be sure about that.
    This is the best site to learn English and be in touch with friends
    all over the world.
    Go ahead and write as much as posible, always you´ll be welcome.


  22. Betty says:

    Thank you very much Aécio Flávio Perim, you are awesome! You even take time to rewrite your message for me.

    Yes, I like the new message very much. I think you must like it better than the first message as well.

    I remember my teachers told us (when in secondary school education) to reread and correct our own composition as a way to improve our English even faster. It works.

    Yes, you are absolutely right. If I want to travel to Brazil, I should do it as soon as possible. Before I know it, I will be too old and too frail to go to an unfamiliar place. It would be worthless to travel when one is so tired all the time.

    Many thanks again for explaining the colours of your country’s flag. It’s amazing!

    Best Regards
    Betty 🙂

  23. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Hello friends of ESLPOD. I feel happy reading your messages referring to my name. I feel proud. My email I wrote is for all my friends here. Get in touch and enjoy good moments. I will try to send always good news so that you can be happy to. Forget the violence, the murders, the difference between people and cultures.
    Aecio from blue, green and yellow beautiful Brazil.
    Treat you neighbor just like you would like to be treated by them.

  24. Aécio Flávio Perim says:

    Betty, now you have a friend in Brazil so that you can use him if you need. You will love the trip and the country as well. I only recommend you not to go to a big city like São Paulo ou Rio de Janeiro, because those citys are full of gunshot, police after thieves, murderers, noises and so forth. Choose a little town and enjoy the peace, the neighbour, the friendship of Brazilian people.
    Waiting for you.
    Your neighbours are the closest friends you have.

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