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Google Lets Users "Bequeath" Online Privileges

April 15, 2013

It’s an estate planner's or financial advisor’s nightmare: Someone dies, and there’s no legal way to access the deceased’s crucial documents that are stored online.

Google has developed a new feature that can help. Its "Inactive Account Manager" lets users direct what happens to their virtual documents, including photographs and e-mail messages, after they die or are no longer capable of accessing their online accounts, AFP reports.

The feature, for those who use it, could eliminate some of the legal uncertainty that estate planners and executors have had to deal with in recent years as more people move their financial data to the cloud.

Users, on their account-settings page, can direct Google to pass on or delete data from Google-controlled services — including the Google Drive for documents, Gmail, the video service YouTube and the social network Google+ — after the accounts are dormant for a specified period. Users can also specify who “inherits” the data, whether a family member or a trusted advisor.

By Elizabeth Jensen
  • To read the AFP article cited in this story, click here.