Mass. Senate Passes Bill to Give Family Members Access to Dead Relatives' E-mail Accounts
Family members and others in charge of the estates of individuals who die in Massachusetts would be allowed to access the email accounts of their late loved ones, under a bill making its way through the Legislature. Right now e-mail providers in most states have their own policies governing the release of personal email to family once someone dies. Some refuse to release the emails.
Newton Senator Cynthia Creem says emails should become an inheritable asset of an estate - and key to tracking down a deceased's financial and personal documents.
"Access to emails in such cases could prove critical to piecing together your parents various IRAs, CDs, mutual funds and so on," Creem said on the Senate floor. "Beyond that, think of photo albums and address books which are being shifted online without any paper left, and resulting in potential loss of precious memories, and an inability to contact friends..."
The Senate passed Creem's bill unanimously today [Wednesday]. It would require email providers, like Yahoo, Gmail, or Hotmail, to give access to emails if authorized family members or representatives provide a court order, or present a notarized request for access accompanied by proof of letters granting them authority over the estate, along with a death certificate.
If it passes the House, Massachusetts would become the sixth state to pass a law ensuring family members can see the emails of the deceased, including Connecticut and Rhode Island. Creem's staff said they have not heard from any email provider companies opposing the idea.