Pull anyone off the street and they’ll tell you they have a Google account, maybe even several Google accounts.

It’s a widely used search engine that provides more features than just a way to ask questions or learn new things. One of its features is Google Gmail.

Consider this: most people use the internet to house their personal information like banking, shopping, social media, and the like. However, this poses a question, a problem that many individuals face: what if someone dies? What happens to the account? Can it be retrieved?

Now, it may seem in poor taste to want to pry open a deceased individual’s private account or accounts, and in certain circumstances, it absolutely is if the intentions are malicious. That’s not the case here.

If you have a family member and they have important documents saved on their account that are crucial for, say, accessing photos or credit information, it’s necessary to access it before Google deletes the account.

Unfortunately, it isn’t as easy as telling Google that you are a relative or a close friend. Like any good company that handles personal information, you need to come very prepared for Google to relinquish the account into your care.

Google takes privacy very seriously. Be warned, though, you may not get access if they deem the evidence provided isn’t strong enough. Having a few photos of the deceased just won’t be enough.

1. Prepare Information Needed

Come prepared with this information, the more you bring, the better your odds.

  1. Your full name.
  2. Your physical mailing address
  3. Your email address.
  4. A government-issued or a driver’s license. You can send photocopies of each.
  5. You’ll need either the deceased user’s Gmail address or their Google username.
  6. Death certificate in English. If it’s written in a foreign language, it will need to be translated and notarized.

After you have everything listed, make a request for the account. Again, it isn’t a guarantee that you’ll gain access.

They aren’t being malicious because they want the information–that’s not their game. You have to understand that they handle very personal information, and Google has to be absolutely sure that the information you provide is spot on.

They must approve it before moving onto the second half of the process: court order.

2. Court Order from the United States

It’s recommended by Google that you shouldn’t start any legal process until you’ve heard back from them.

When you request the account, you have the opportunity to ask for specific parts of the account: photos, Google Drive files, Gmail, even Youtube, to name a few.

They may allow some of your requests, but they might not give you everything, even if you did everything right.

If you were successful in the process, you’ll have to follow through with a court order from the United States.

3. Closing the Account

Normally, an account would be deleted by Google after a long period of inactivity. It can be as short 30 days, or as long as nine months.

They reserve the right, but typically don’t delete accounts. However, that doesn’t mean anyone should take their time trying to access the deceased individual’s account.

Even though Google doesn’t delete accounts often, when they do, all that information is lost and cannot be retrieved.

That means everything: photos, personal information, credit information, Youtube, Gmail, files, and any other information stored on that account.

For those that have already accessed the account and retrieved everything needed, if they so choose, they can shut the account down. You’ll be asked to provide the same information that was necessary for accessing it.

4. Prepare your Account

You never quite know when your mortal coil will be severed. It’s an unpredictable fact of life that many individuals usually don’t think about. It’s understandable; it’s a scary realization.

Those who do think about it, Google provides the opportunity to set up a Plan B just in case you meet an untimely death.

It can also be used in a situation of inactivity–Google will send information when the account reaches a certain threshold of inactivity. Maybe, one day, you are sent into a coma, and no one has access to your account.

Through Google’s “Inactive Account Manager,” you can put in place a Plan B if things go south. Here’s how:

  1. Select Start.
  2. You have several options to tweak: How long does the account have to be inactive before contact is made? You can choose three months, six months, 12 months and 18 months. Google will contact you through several avenues.
  3. Provide a phone number for Google to contact.
  4. A contact email for Google to email.
  5. You can even list a recovery email that doesn’t necessarily have to be yours. If one isn’t already set up, you can set one up in your account by first signing in.

5. Recovery Email Setup

First, sign into your Google account.

  1. Select your profile picture. This will open a menu.
  2. Select Google Account from the drop-down menu. You’ll be taken to your account settings.
  3. Select Personal Info on the left-hand panel.
  4. Under Contact Info, select Email.

From this page, you’ll have the opportunity to provide emails for several different occasions. The most important being Recovery Email.

6. Preparing your Account – continued

Once that’s finished, move onto the next step. Google will ask you who will be notified and what will get shared.

It’s a very extensive list you’ll get to choose from so if you’re account has important personal information that needs to get to your family and friends, now is your chance to do so.

Afterwards, you’ll have the opportunity to decide if you want your inactive Google account to be deleted or not.

When everything is said and done, you can decide if you’d like to send a personal message along with the information. A download link will be provided for your chosen person.

Bottom Line

And while it is a touchy subject, how you face the truth is what matters. Google gives you the opportunity, and are more than happy to work with you in these trying times.

Through them, you can prepare your account for transfer, retrieve captured moments, retrieve personal information like credit information and banking.