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Options for other online accounts

From banking and shopping to storing personal files and photos, so much is now managed online, it’s easy to forget how much personal information is being held on databases across the globe. Research conducted in 2015 found that in the UK, an average of 118 accounts were registered to one email address.

That’s why it’s important to take control of the situation and decide what you want to happen to all these accounts when you die.

Here’s a brief introduction to the choices available with some of the most popular websites and online service providers. This is not an exhaustive list and policies change, so always do your own research too.

When you die, the law dictates that all your financial affairs from bank accounts to PayPal, must only be dealt with by the executor of your Will. If you don’t make a Will, this responsibility will fall to your next of kin.

Including all your money-related online accounts in your digital wishes, will enable your executor to build a complete picture of your finances. It will bring small debts or credits they wouldn’t otherwise be aware of to their attention e.g. subscriptions or money owed to you for goods sold on auction sites like eBay.

There’s no need to include your passwords or PINs in the list of your online accounts. Your executor will be asked for proof of legal authority to manage your estate (a Grant of Probate or a Letter of Administration) before being given access to your accounts.

For most email accounts like Yahoo, an authorised person or family member will need to contact the relevant provider and provide id and a copy of the death certificate.

Once this information has been received, the email provider will close your email account. In accordance with most companies’ terms of service, no data will be transferred to anyone else.

Some providers do offer other options, for example:

Gmail

You can choose what is done to your account after a set period of inactivity (i.e. you haven’t logged in), using the ‘ Inactive Account Manager’.

This feature allows you to decide in advance if your account should be deleted or shared with a nominated contact. Your nominated contact will be given access to your emails and any documents or photos attached to those emails.

Read Google’s full policy here

Microsoft — Hotmail.com, Outlook.com, Live.com, Windowslive.com, MSN.com

An authorised person or family member will need to email msrecord@microsoft.com and go through Microsoft's Next of Kin process.

Once they have provided the information required, Microsoft will release your account data — including emails, attachments and your address book — to your next of kin on a DVD. They will not be given access to your account.

TalkTalk and AOL — previously Tiscali

An authorised person or family member will need to call the Bereavement Team on 0203 441 5550. They will be asked to provide your account details in order to close or transfer ownership of your account.

There are hundreds of streaming and download services offering free and paid services to customers.

All require you to open an account and sign up to the terms of service. But when it comes to working out what will happen to these accounts when you die, some providers are clear, some are not. And don’t assume anything, particularly when it comes to your downloaded digital assets like music, film and books.

Music, books and film downloads

In the past, it was simple. Precious record collections, books and videos were passed on when you died. But passing on digital assets is not so simple.

This excerpt from Apple’s terms of service sums up the issue.“You agree that your Account is non-transferable and that any rights to your Apple ID or Content within your Account terminate upon your death”.

Basically, when you buy files through services such as iTunes, Spotify and Amazon, you are paying for a license giving you access to those files during your lifetime. The downloaded music, e-books, films or TV shows are not owned by you and not yours to pass on.

Once informed of a death, the policy of most service providers is to delete the account and all content within it.

TV and broadband

An authorised person or family member will need to contact your provider and will usually be asked to provide:

  • Your name as the account holder
  • Your account number
  • Their relationship to you
  • If they want to close the account, the name and address of the executor of your estate

Popular UK providers:

eBay

An authorised person or family member will need to contact eBay (although this isn’t as easy as it should be without an eBay account) and send a copy of the death certificate along with your username, e-mail address, full name, full address, and contact phone number and ID of the person making the account closure request.

Once this information is received, eBay will close your account and write off any outstanding fees.

information icon Many accounts, few passwords?

A few passwords for lots of accounts is not ideal, but a different password for each is unrealistic. A solution is to use an online password manager to generate, store, and retrieve passwords securely. Some services will also allow your login details to be transferred to your digital executor when you die.

Download our digital accounts checklist

Digital legacy pack illustration

A useful checklist to help you create a full list of your social media, email and other online accounts.

Download

Here's the information that you need to know about who we are and the other companies that we work with in order to provide our products and services.

Who are SunLife?

Phoenix Life Limited trades as SunLife and is the provider of the Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, SunLife Insurance and the life insurance policy payment option for Funeral Plans. Phoenix Life Limited’s registered office is at 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 1016269). 

SunLife Limited distributes financial products and services and is a company limited by shares, registered office: 1 Wythall Green Way, Wythall, Birmingham, B47 6WG (registered in England, no. 05460862). SunLife Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and is entered on the Financial Services Register (registration no. 769427).

You can contact us by post at SunLife, PO Box 1395, Peterborough, PE2 2TR or by phone on 0800 008 6060.

If you choose to add Funeral Benefit Option to your Guaranteed Over 50 Plan, Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

Who provides the Funeral Plans?

Dignity Funerals Ltd arranges and provides the funeral services, registered office: 4 King Edwards Court, Sutton Coldfield, West Midlands, B73 6AP (registered in England and Wales, No. 00041598). Dignity Funerals Ltd is a member of the National Association of Funeral Directors.

The life insurance policy that pays for your funeral will be provided by Phoenix Life Limited, trading as SunLife.

Who provides My Smarter (ISA)?

My Smarter (ISA) is provided by Scottish Friendly Asset Managers Limited. Authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register, registration No. 188832. Member of The Investment Association. Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ.

Who provides the Will writing services?

Hugh James is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA Number:303202).

The information contained on this website is based on Hugh James' understanding of the law of intestacy in England and Wales only as at April 2014. The law in Scotland and Northern Ireland is significantly different. This is for information purposes and is not intended to be legal advice.

Who provides Family Life Insurance?

SunLife Family Life Insurance is provided by Scottish Friendly Assurance Society Limited which is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Details can be found on the Financial Services register (registration number 110002). Registered Office: Scottish Friendly House, 16 Blythswood Square, Glasgow G2 4HJ. 

Who provides SunLife Pet Insurance

SunLife Pet Insurance is arranged and administered by BDML Connect Limited. BDML Connect Limited is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (No. 309140). Registered in England and Wales Number 02785540. Registered Office: 45 Westerham Road, Bessels Green, Sevenoaks, Kent, TN13 2QB.

Who provides SunLife Home Insurance

SunLife Home Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.

Who provides SunLife Car Insurance

SunLife Car Insurance is arranged and administered by BISL Limited and underwritten by a panel of insurers. BISL Limited are an intermediary authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Registered in England no. 03231094. Registered office Pegasus House, Bakewell Road, Orton Southgate, Peterborough PE2 6YS.