Earlier this year, Google announced an update to their inactive account policy. Beginning in December, accounts that have been inactive for more than two years may be deleted. This includes content in Google Workspace – like Gmail and Docs – along with services like Google Photos.

If you’ve lost a loved one and have been named the personal representative over their digital assets, it’s critical to manage their files in a timely and efficient manner. Here’s essential info on Google’s updated policy.

Why Is Google Deleting Accounts?

It all comes down to security. Inactive online accounts are much more likely to be compromised than active ones, because they don’t undergo security updates and password changes. They’re also less likely to have two-factor authentication established. Compromised accounts can be used for spam or even identity theft.

Deletions of inactive Google accounts will begin this December, starting with accounts that were created and then never used. Before an account is deleted, Google will send notifications to the account and any recovery email associated with it. An important note: Google’s inactive account policy applies to personal Google accounts, not those assigned to users by their school or workplace. 

How To Manage an Inactive Google Account

If you’ve recently lost a loved one, there’s a fair chance they have a Gmail account. One Statista study found that as of 2018, there were about 1.5 billion active Gmail users across the globe. Closing your loved one’s online accounts is an important part of closing their estate, but you’ll want to make sure to save important records first.

According to Google’s help center, Google does not provide passwords to the accounts of decedents, even to immediate family or representatives. However, a personal representative or legal representative can submit a request, either to obtain data and funds from the account, or to close it.

If you and your loved one used a joint email account and you plan on deleting it down the road, there are a number of steps you can take to avoid an unwanted account deletion. Per Google’s policy, users just need to engage in simple activity to keep accounts open, including:

  • Reading email
  • Watching a Youtube video
  • Downloading an app
  • Using Google Drive

Before you close the account, make sure to download and securely back up important files, like family photos. You may also need to save certain documents and records that will be needed during the probate process. We’ve created this estate documents guide to help you know what to look out for.

Protecting Your Digital Assets

For many individuals, digital assets are an afterthought when it comes to estate planning. But creating a plan for how your online accounts will be closed after your death can safeguard your privacy and protect them from being compromised.

In the case of Google, you can establish a trusted contact through Google’s Inactive Account Manager. You can select what data to share with your contact, and when that share will occur – anywhere from 3-18 months after your account is inactive. After that period of time has passed, Google will send your contact a link to download the data you have specified. Or you can indicate that you would like your account to be deleted.

From online bank accounts to social media, we understand how extensive our client’s digital lives are. Whether you’re managing the estate of a loved one or need to add digital asset directives in your will or trust, we’re here to help.