A recent legal fight in the U.S. raises many questions about ownership of emails after a person dies. When Lieutenant Corporal Justin Ellsworth was killed in Iraq, his father asked Yahoo! Mail to provide him Justin’s emails in order to create a memorial for his son. Yahoo refused to give up the emails due to Privacy issues.
The question is, who owns your emails after you have died? In the past, if you wrote in a journal, whoever receives your possessions will receive your journal, and they have the right to go through your journal if they wish. But when it comes to electronic mail, it is a grey area and a good discussion topic.
It’s a sensitive subject, because viewing your email after you are deceased could change what people thought of you or could reveal secrets that could hurt the people that remember you for who you were to them. I think some things are better left unread, but I also think there are circumstances where it may be appropriate for a loved one to see your email.
I think that your email password should be left in your will if that’s what you choose. If you choose not to leave your password, then nobody should have the right to view your mail. The down side to this is that it would be an administrative nightmare to update your will if your email password changes. But I think ultimately it should be up to the deceased person to decide how they want to handle the situation.
Would you want your email to be read by your family after you die?