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Denied Access to Deceased Spouse’s Emails

In 2017 Ricardo Serrano’s partner found themselves scrambling to get access to their late husband’s contacts and calendar information so they could inform his friends and family of his passing. Practically nobody maintains a physical address book, and neither did Mr. Serrano. Today we will go over the attempts made to retrieve digital data from Ricardo Serrano’s Google contacts, calendar, and Gmail accounts. Some information was retrievable, most was not.
It is important to note that the following took place after the 2016 enactment of RUFADAA in New York state. Ricardo Serrano’s partner, while dealing with their husband’s recent death, realised they did not have access to the contact information of many of his friends and family members. They could thus not inform them of Mr. Serrano’s passing. They recognized that they would need access to Mr. Serrano’s contacts and calendar in order to retrieve all relevant persons’ contact information. They also wanted access to Mr. Serrano’s gmail account in order to recover various documents and facilitate the administration. There was also likely sentimental data in Mr. Serrano’s Google account.
In order to get Mr. Serrano’s contacts, the executor had to provide Google with a court order. Once this was done, Google requested “a written request for disclosure, a copy of the death certificate of the user, and a certified copy of the letter of appointment as fiduciary or a small-estate certificate.” Once this was completed, a folder of raw data containing the information from Mr. Serrano’s stored contacts would be released. Not only is this tedious to sift through, it also left Mr Serrano with no privacy.
In order to get access to Mr. Serrano’s calendar data, Google requested the court make a finding or determination based on before any disclosure was made. Eventually it was determined that Mr. Serrano’s representative would be able to receive the calendar data.
Finally, Mr. Serrano’s email account contents were requested. Unfortunately, the court denied the executor’s “authority to request from Google disclosure of the content of the decedent's email communications.” This meant Mr. Serrano’s partner was forced to administer the estate without access to any of Mr. Serrano’s emails and the various documents and statements they contained. Overall, this was a fairly grim outcome given the amount of effort and time spent only to retrieve contact information.
Don’t leave your family in this situation. Get Bequest set up and make digital account administration easy with no court or custodian involvement.
Source: Casetext

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