Ask Jerry: Will Google help me access a loved one's data after they pass away?

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Welcome to Ask Jerry, where we talk about any and all the questions you might have about the smart things in your life. I'm Jerry, and I have spent the better part of my life working with tech. I have a background in engineering and R&D and have been covering Android and Google for the past 15 years. 

Ask Jerry

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Ask Jerry is a column where we answer your burning Android/tech questions with the help of long-time Android Central editor Jerry Hildenbrand.

I'm also really good at researching data about everything — that's a big part of our job here at Android Central — and I love to help people (another big part of our job!). If you have questions about your tech, I'd love to talk about them. 

Email me at, and I'll try to get things sorted out. You can remain anonymous if you like, and we promise we're not sharing anything we don't cover here.

I look forward to hearing from you!

Will Google help access my deceased relative's data?

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Loujain writes:

My mother recently died and we would like to be able to use her email so we can reset or close some financial accounts. Can Google help us unlock her phone?

Thank you for any help.

Hi Loujain. I'm sorry your mother has passed, and I hope your family is doing well and supporting each other. Times like this can be tough and emotionally draining. If you need another online ear to talk to, I'm here.

I'm both glad and sad that you asked this question, which I've received several times. It's to be expected as death is part of life, as cliche and macabre as that sounds.

Before we go any further, we all should take a few moments to prepare so we don't leave our family members in the same situation. I've written a few simple things we should do to prepare our own account data to make it easier for our family.

The short answer is that Google can not help you and your family unlock your late mother's phone. Even if the company wanted to do it (it doesn't), Google can't help you unlock any phone because it doesn't have access to the password, fingerprint, or any other way to unlock the phone's screen.

Unfortunately, that probably means all the data on the phone is lost forever. It's encrypted and locked away  — the only thing you can do is contact Google and request the account data.

It may not seem that way now, but this is good. We want the devices that manage our lives to be safe and secure and should expect companies like Google to try and make them this way.

This hits very close to home because I recently went through the same thing. My father passed away, and I was forced to contact Apple because his phone was locked. The process isn't the same between Apple and Google, but it's close. If your mother accessed her Google account in the past two years, Google can help you.

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You're going to need the death certificate at a minimum. Apple required the death certificate and a court order noting I was the inheritor of my late father's data. I got the latter through a clerk at my local courthouse.

Google states, "In certain circumstances we may provide content from a deceased user's account. In all of these cases, our primary responsibility is to keep people's information secure, safe, and private. We cannot provide passwords or other login details. Any decision to satisfy a request about a deceased user will be made only after a careful review."

According to someone who went through this process, Google provided an archive of photos, Drive documents, Calendar entries, and contacts. The company was not able to provide email messages, text or chat messages, or YouTube user data. In addition, Google helped remove the activation lock so the phone could be factory reset.

This may be helpful, even if it doesn't provide exactly what you need. You can get the process started by visiting this link.

Jerry Hildenbrand
Senior Editor — Google Ecosystem

Jerry is an amateur woodworker and struggling shade tree mechanic. There's nothing he can't take apart, but many things he can't reassemble. You'll find him writing and speaking his loud opinion on Android Central and occasionally on Twitter.

  • BerryBubbles
    Good information for us all to know. Thanks to @Jerry Hildenbrand!
  • jimbarr
    IMHO, part of the issue is asking and answering the tough questions and establishing trust. While my wife and I each have our separate and shared accounts, all credentials are stored in our separate Bitwarden accounts. We each have access to the other's account and have Emergency Access to each others' accounts. We have nothing to hide from each other, so if one passes, the other's information is an open book. YMMV, of course.

    Also, if you have power of attorney for someone, be sure to get the usernames and passwords required for access to their information. Having it after they pass can save a lot of time and hassle.
  • ismaelgx
    I set up this years ago