Email After Death

When I read this title in Woody’s Email Essentials I thought it was a reference to the kooky service one can subscribe to which sends emails out on ones behalf after death. But it turns out it’s about more serious issues — how to access the email of loved ones when the unthinkable and inevitable happens.

Woody’s points out that most email storage is deleted by ISPs after a period of inactivity (30, 60 or 90 days). I join the many readers who are disturbed about the inactivity time limit on email accounts and especially the fact that the inactivity might not be the date of death but some date earlier. Aside from any business or financial information on the email accounts, there may well be important personal messages that could be a comfort to family and friends.

Woody’s points out that a Power of Attorney is normally only active while the person is alive. Upon death it lapses and control moves to the executor or administrator (once confirmed by a court). With modern medical care and the ability to prolong life for some time, it’s probably a good idea to have a Power of Attorney to let someone handle your business affairs if you’re incapacitated. At least that means that someone will have the authority to access your emails on your behalf and deal with the issues which arise.

Since so much business in our personal lives is now conducted via email, it’s easy to see how it can be important to enable someone else to access our email if we are incapacitated for any significant length of time. And if we are taking care of the affairs of a deceased family member, we need to move email access to the top of the list, because there may be only a 30 day window in which to access unread email.

What did I learn from this eNewsletter? I have my mother’s banking information, and am a signatory and hold a key to her safe deposit box, where most of her vital information can be found. But I see now that is not enough. I need to leave some documentation and account access details for my mother just in case, and I need to get the same from her.

It may not be an easy subject to raise, but doing it now can save hassles later at a difficult time.

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