Google’s Inactive Account Manager ‘Puts Emphasis On Digital Legacy’

New Tool Highlights Growing Importance Of Online Accounts

16.04.2013

By Rob Dixon

The launch of a new tool from Google to allow people to choose what happens to their online data after they die is a clear sign of how important it is to consider their digital legacy in their plans for the future, according to a legal specialist at Irwin Mitchell.

Called Inactive Account Manager, the system is designed to ensure that web users are able to decide how information on Google’s systems is dealt with after a person either passes away or has been inactive for a prolonged period of time.

The tool means that people can now choose to have data deleted after a certain length of time or select trusted contacts to receive information related to services including Gmail, Google+ and YouTube.

It is one of the first examples of a major internet company taking steps to address the issue of how digital assets are handled following the death of a user.

Katie Winslow, a legal expert in Irwin Mitchell’s Will, Trust and Estate Disputes team who specialises in contesting wills, said the move was a major example that the issue of the online assets left behind when a person dies is increasingly coming under the microscope.

She said: “The issue of digital legacy is one which continues to gain attention, which is understandable as people are living more of their lives online.

“However, so many people simply do not consider what will happen to social media and other web accounts when they pass away. It is worth bearing in mind that betting or Paypal accounts, for example, often have a monetary value.

“Google’s move is an important step and one which we will likely see more internet giants follow in the future – but, in the interim, it is important for people to ensure they put provisions in place in a will that will ensure such accounts can be dealt with following their death. Such information can simply be included in a will or a Letter of Wishes.”

Katie added: “Speaking to a will specialist and putting together a valid document which clearly outlines wishes is hugely important, as we see numerous cases when failing to leave clear instructions can leave family members or close friends facing difficult and draining legal battles.

“It is vital that online accounts, increasingly important in the modern world, do not become a new battleground for warring parties.”

Read more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in relation to Will, Trust and Estate Disputes