There are plenty of websites where the deceased might have had online accounts, and those websites’ policies regarding posthumous access may vary. However, one thing that is common to all sites and services is that registration to them is done using an email address. Therefore, access to the deceased person’s email address is key in most cases to gaining access to associated website accounts.
Usually, creating an account on a website requires registration, usually including the creation of a username and password. In order to re-enter these websites, the user must know and enter these usernames and passwords. On many smartphones and computers, the device or browser “remembers” the login information and completes it automatically. In many cases, the username is the email address or the person’s name.
In order to log into an online account of a deceased person, the options you have are:
If you have the password – you can log in.
If you do not have the password but you do have access to the deceased person’s email account, you can click “forgot password” on the website’s login screen, and an email will automatically be sent to the email address used to register to the website. This email will contain a link, which, when clicked, will allow you to set a new password. Once a new password is assigned, you will have access to the website account. It is advisable to keep this and other passwords in a safe place so you will be able to access that website again in future.
If you have neither the password nor access to the email, accessing the account is dependent on the policy of the particular website, service provider or platform’s regarding granting access to relatives of the deceased.
If you succeed in accessing the online accounts, please stop for a moment to think again: you need to be ready and prepare yourself, as accessing the dead person’s accounts may not be an easy thing for you. This is a very personal and private area of his/hers.
In the case that you do not have the relevant username and password, you may want to try to log in from his/her smartphone, tablet or computer, since, as mentioned above, in many cases those devices “remember” the access details and complete them automatically. Later on, when you do get the usernames and passwords, you may log in from other devices as well.
In some cases, if the smartphone or computer is still logged in to particular accounts after a death, you may have access to these accounts only for a limited period of time. Automatic logins linked to devices are usually time limited, and once that time allocation passes, you will need to re-enter the password. If you fail to do this within the time period, you may be locked out of the account(s).
Therefore, you should use the narrow timeframe during which you have access to set up as many new passwords as you can, thereby ensuring future access to these accounts.
You can decide to close the account at a later time, but better to have the option to decide this yourself rather than being locked out.
In automatic logins the password’s characters are not shown. Therefore you need to set up a new password that will be known to you.
(Taken from Death In The Digital Era: A Useful Guide by Vered Shavit, ‘Digital Dust’ www.digitaldustblog.com. March 2nd 2015)