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When a person passes away, is the ownership of his/hers internet accounts such as email, Facebook, etc. inherited by the next of kin (or whoever is named in the will, if any) or reverted to internet service provider? Similarly, if the same internet account is used by two spouses, but the name on the account and the avatar correspond to the deceased, can the surviving spouse (who has all the credentials such as passwords) keep using the account?

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Yes

Subject to the specific contract and the terms of the will

For example, at present, both Apple’s and Amazon’s contracts are terminated on the death of the user so they are not inheritable.

Facebook will delete or memorialize (freeze) an account at the request of the legal representative. Twitter will only deactivate an account but won’t delete it.

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  • I'm not a lawyer, just a new user (who created this account specifically to ask this question), but - are you sure? :) I thought there was an issue with Facebook regarding Real Names, at one point. (I was also going to ask about e-books, but I guess that is covered in "Amazon's contract" - but at what point does a "yes, with exceptions", become a "no, with exceptions"?
    – John C
    Jul 5 at 14:26
  • Well, it’s like the question “Will you die if you step out of a flying aeroplane?” - “Yes, with exceptions”. The default state is, yes, you are going to die - if you have a parachute or are incredibly lucky are the exceptions. Now, you could say “No, with exceptions” and that may be the appropriate way to put it if it’s a skydiving plane because the default there is you will be wearing a parachute. Normal usage is to identify the default situation and identify the exceptional. Digital assets and contracts are legally no different from any others: unless the specifics make them so.
    – Dale M
    Jul 5 at 22:00
  • As a skydiving B-license holder, I'm apparently one of the exceptions, lucky me. :) But the the point of my question is, what is the "default" situation? I've read that if you buy a used Tesla, you don't get the "software upgrades" along with it, because Tesla can turn them off. Granted, I'm just a random customer - but given everything I see in the media, it feels like, for the question "can you transfer accounts/account-based digital assets upon death" - the answer would be "no, with exceptions". And the corporations are constantly reducing the exceptions.
    – John C
    Jul 5 at 23:11
  • @JohnC The default law of inheritance is that all of your assets (including your rights under contracts) are inheritable. Specific contracts may make this different. Therefore, yes, with exceptions.
    – Dale M
    Jul 5 at 23:29

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