By JAMIE TUCKER Consumer Technology Reporter
It’s not something anyone wants to think about, but here’s the question: What happens to your online accounts when you die?
You may have provided a lawyer with passwords, account numbers, email addresses, contacts, notes, and documents. But probably not. Even if you have a lawyer or trust attorney handling your affairs, they probably haven’t asked about digital assets
It’s difficult to leave behind all the digital stuff we’ve accumulated online. Now no one wants to give their passwords to anyone or write them down somewhere.
Google has a feature that not many people know about that allows you to send your family an email with information you have chosen to share
with them after you’re gone.
It’s called “Inactive Account Manager.” Here’s how it works and why you should use it.
Inactive Account Manager sends an email to the contacts you select and grants them access to your Google data after your death.
You select up to 10 people and can also send them a personal email message that they will receive after your death. Google allows you to choose what you want to share with each person.
You can give someone permission to your photos, someone else your contacts, or someone to have access to everything.
When you die, these emails will be sent along with a link where you can access or download the information you left behind.
So how does Google know when someone dies? Actually that’s not the case, but the way it learns or suspects that you’ve died is some clever bit of computing.
If you don’t sign in to Google or check your Gmail account for three months, Google will send an email or text message asking if you’re OK. If you don’t respond, Google will assume you may be dead.
The account will be marked as inactive and the emails you set up will automatically be sent to the people you selected. They then have three months to download your content. Your Google account will then be deleted.
You can also use Google to respond to emergency emails. If your account is marked as inactive, Gmail will respond to emails with a reply that you write in advance. I think you can make this email as scary as you want. For example, if you receive an email addressed to you after your account has been marked as inactive, the sender will receive an automatic reply that you can pre-compose.
It is advisable for all Google users to set up and manage an inactive account in advance. Not only so that your family can take ownership of these precious memories and information, but also so that the information that Google has collected over the years doesn’t stay on the Internet any longer than necessary.
This week, Google announced that it will begin deleting inactive accounts, even if the owner has not logged in to Inactive Account Manager. Any Google account that has not been accessed in the last two years will be deleted starting December 1st.