Google recently announced a way for users of its popular online services, including Gmail, to create a sort of digital will for their accounts. Google’s Inactive Account Manager allows you to set a timeout period, which will trigger after you have not accessed the account after several months. When triggered, Google will send information to up to 10 trusted friends or family members that you specify, so that your account does not remain in limbo indefinitely.
Losing access to a deceased loved one’s email address can be devastating for spouses left behind to pay bills online for accounts they do not know the information to. There are also heartbreaking cases like a deceased soldier’s family in 2004 being denied access to their son’s account, which contained photos and other conversations they wanted to remember their son by.
With the increasing prevalence of cloud computing and Google’s other services, friends and family could also lose access to important digital files and documents stored on their deceased loved one’s Google drive. Google is often a driving force for industry standards, and it seems likely that many other email and storage service providers would want to provide a similar service in the future.