Google now has a way for you to control the disposition of your Gmail and other Google accounts after you die:
Google has now rolled out a technological solution, a euphemistically titled “Inactive Account Manager” tool (“Control what happens to your account when you stop using Google,” the company says, i.e. die). With the tool, you set an amount of time you want Google to wait before taking action (3, 6, 9 months, or a year). One month before that deadline, if Google hasn’t heard from you, it will send you an alert by either email or text message. If that month closes out and you still have not re-entered your account, Google will notify your “trusted contacts” — you can list up to 10 — and share your data with them if you have so chosen.
Alternatively, you can set up the manager to outright delete your account without sharing it at that time. This includes all data associated with the account — Blogger posts, uploaded YouTube videos, Picasa albums, Google Voice messages, etc. (This goes without saying, but the tool will only help with your Google accounts. If you’ve got, say, a Facebook account, you’ll still haven’t to plan for that separately.)
Google is actually following in the steps of Facebook here. That service has had a method by which the family member of a deceased person can gain control of a person’s account and either delete it, or put it into a mode that would essentially let it act as a memorial page. Twitter does not have a similar service yet, but I would imagine that we will something in the future. Discussions with fellow attorneys who do estate planning have informed me that it’s becoming more common for people to make provisions in their wills to control how their digital “property” will be disposed of after they die. As the digital world becomes a larger and larger part of our lives, I imagine that will become more common.