What You’ve Been Waiting for – Estate Planning for Your Google Account

Misty A. Watson

Misty A. Watson




Google is giving users an innovative tool for long-term planning of digital data and access to inactive Google accounts. Welcome to estate planning for your Google account.

As many families have experienced, the terms of service for most types of online accounts from most providers do not generally allow for the transfer of access to an account in the event of death. As more people begin to store important documents, photos, videos, and other items of sentimental value online, gaining access to the information has become an increasingly important issue in estate planning, according to Brett Watz with Mind of the Geek.

On Thursday April 11, 2013, Google addressed this issue head on by rolling out its Inactive Account Manager. This feature allows a Google user to designate a particular person (or persons) as manager of the Google account once it becomes inactive. This trusted friend or family member will receive access to the user’s emails, videos, photos, and documents in the inactive Google account for many of its services, such as Mail and YouTube. The user selects which data can be accessed. Note that it appears that this policy does not extend to information contained in paid Google services (see The Digital Reader’s post by Nate Hoffelder).

The Google user determines the time for which the account may be inactive (three, six, nine or 12 months) prior to allowing access by the designated manager. Texts and e-mail alerts will be sent to the account holder prior to allowing the inactive account manager access to the account. The user has the option to have the Google account be automatically deleted after requested actions are completed (such as data downloads) or a specified time period of inactivity ends.

Facebook recently began allowing family members to have an account memorialized upon the death of the account holder. Hopefully this service offered by Google will encourage other websites to allow similar access.

Want to check out or set up your Google Inactive Account Manager?

  • Sign into your Google account, and click on “Account” (or go to www.google.com/settings and sign in).
  • Look for the “Account Management” section. Under “Control what happens to your account when you stop using Google,” click on “Learn more and go to setup.”
  • Inactive Account Manager will open click “Setup” to begin the set up process.
    • Select how you want to receive your initial alert
    • Choose the length of your “timeout period” – the length of time your Google account can remain inactive without you signing in before your account will time out (three, six, nine or 12 months)
      • Add friends, family members and, if applicable, trustees (up to 10 individuals) who will be notified when your account becomes inactive. Decide which trusted contacts will receive notification only that you stopped using your account and which ones will be given access to your data.
      • Trusted contacts will receive appropriate notifications. Those with access to your data will be given a link to download your data, as well as a date by which the data must be downloaded. This date is important as you have the option to have your account deleted after a designated period.
    • Decide if you want Google to delete your account after your requests have been completed or after your determined length of inactivity ends.

More information on Inactive Account Manager

Must Read for Trusted Contacts

Posted by Attorney Misty A. Watson. Watson’s practice focus is estate-related: planning, administration, and probate. She creates trusts, wills, financial, and health care powers of attorney, guardianships, and conservatorships.


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