Closing Online Accounts after Death

Posted on July 07, 2015

It’s not uncommon to have multiple online accounts—everything you do on the internet leaves a digital footprint, and with every company wanting you to create an account, it wouldn’t be surprising to have dozens of unused usernames and passwords.

So how do you go about closing down accounts of your loved ones? Or how do you prepare your family for the eventuality of having to shut them down? 

The best thing anyone can do is create a list of all your accounts with usernames, passwords, and answers to any security questions. This will allow your family members to access those accounts and deactivate them—particularly useful information will be to your email account and social media accounts. Make sure to keep this list in a safe place and let immediate family know where it is kept. Also, give your family any password or lock combination that might be guarding your important information! 

But what do you do if your loved one didn’t leave behind a list? Your first step should be to access their email account(s) as it will have a wealth of information, such as emails from subscription services, social media accounts, and bank accounts. You might get lucky if you log into the deceased’s computer as they may have an automatic log-in. If that’s not the case, most email companies (including Google) will allow you access to an email account if you have proper documentation of the account holder’s death (such as a death certificate).  

One email service that will not allow you access (even with a death certificate) is Yahoo Mail. Yahoo requires a court order to access the account, so you can decide if it is worth the time and effort to access the account.

You will want to keep the email account open for some time so you can monitor the emails that come in, which will help you figure out what accounts need to be cancelled.  

Social media and subscription services can be more of a handful—with so many different types of accounts, it can be hard to keep track of them, especially if the deceased was younger and more active on those accounts. However, Facebook and Twitter have special request forms on their websites that allow immediate family members to memorialize the page or remove it completely. Again, this requires a death certificate or similar identification of the death.

If you are having trouble with any of the accounts, try the following: 

    1. Access your loved one’s home computer and see what accounts have been left open or which of them have automatic log-ins. You can then delete the accounts without having to contact the company.

    2. If the deceased had a smartphone, many of their accounts may be connected to their phone, which are nearly always logged in. It’s another great way to bypass customer service.

    3. Once you have an email password, try using the same username and password for other subscriptions. It is likely they use the same one for multiple accounts.

Gaining access to their email account will help tremendously in whittling down your loved one’s online presence. It may take some time, but eventually, you will be able to close all of their major accounts if you contact the right sources.



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