What happens when I die Microsoft?


Hi all,

At the age of 37, my financial planner told me that due to what I own, I really need to get my butt into gear and sort out my:

  • Legal Will
  • Enduring Power of Attorney
  • Appointment of Medical Treatment Decision Maker.

That’s all Australian legal terms which while confusing, I’m sure it’s somewhat similar in the developed world. In short, I just need to state what happens when I either die or what to do with me if I get to a point where I’m practically dead. That and who gets my stuff.

This process has me thinking… I heard about a process called a “Dead Man’s Switch” which doing some homework, some companies offer a service but none I’ve heard of. Working off the basis that if my Attorney or Executors of my Will can get into my Microsoft account (main email), my Edge and OneNote, they could probably do a pretty good job in winding up my affairs. All my day to day bills are in the email and the filing process I’d imagine is pretty standard.

My question is.. .does Microsoft make this easy for anyone to plan ahead? I read online somewhere that they have a “Next of Kin” option but I can’t find that anywhere. Also.. I found a blog post and while I’m anti-Google in general, they appear to do it better in the blog post entitled “Plan your Digital afterlife”.


All I’m asking is surely in 2021… there is a better way then me putting my Microsoft account password and phone code (to pass 2FA) on a post-it note and leave it in a bank vault? Is there?





Comments (15)

15 responses to “What happens when I die Microsoft?”

  1. lvthunder

    I know LastPass has some options in this area where your next of kin can get into your passwords after you die.

  2. anoldamigauser

    Short answer, it depends on your belief system.

    With that out of the way, don't leave it in a bank vault unless someone else is approved for access to the box. Banks are constrained by all sorts of arcane rules that lock things down in the event of your death, and god help whoever would have to sort it out if you do not have a will and the estate goes to probate.

    That said, at the moment, a letter with your attorney or a trusted family member, to be opened in the event of your death would probably be a good idea. Two factor authentication requiring access to a device could cause other issues, not the least of which could be that when you go, your device went with you. This is one of the reasons that many financial institutions do not implement 2FA via an authenticator app.

    • red.radar

      This is one of my hesitations with my embracing two factor via authenticator apps. I make sure to use OTP methods because the token appears in a barcode. I save the tokens in a secure place for local recovery and make sure my wife has the same tokens programmed in her authenticator app. This way if I get hit by bus. She has my passwords and she can validate as an approved user with the classic 6 digit code.

      I have also started experimenting with the YubiKeys. Online services will allow you to validate multiple physical keys and she can have one. Again... If I get hit by a bus there is a backup key in her possession with shared passwords to allow her access to key accounts.

    • wright_is

      In Germany, and I believe the UK, the official executor of your estate can get access to bank accounts and vault boxes, when they present their officially signed credentials and the death certificate.

      I have left my wife access to my password vault.

      Your own documents are yours, but I know people have fought with Amazon & Co. over the rights to music, video and apps bought with the account of the deceased. Amazon argue that, despite them being left to someone in the will, the rights to the content cease when the account owner dies and the account can't be transferred.

    • dkrowe

      "when you go, your device went with you. This is one of the reasons that many financial institutions do not implement 2FA via an authenticator app"

      Then why do they seem so insistent on using SMS for 2FA?

      • anoldamigauser

        Yes, if it relies on SMS to a single number, this will be an issue. In my experience, they allow a second phone and/or the security questions. Now, if my wife and I go out in spectacular fashion together, it will be an issue unless someone left their phone at home.

  3. hrlngrv

    I added an account for my son on my Linux machine. He's been using Arch for years, so he'd have no problem logging in. That account has an encrypted home directory, and I have a letter to him stored on the desktop. That letter includes my key financial passwords.

    OTOH, there are some things which I'd want digitally burned to ashes upon my death, not least scanned college photos for which no one other than my surviving fraternity brothers would have any claim.

  4. matsan

    In Sweden the law clearly regulates what you may do after a person has deceased, even if you have access to that person's logins (and in Sweden the digital ID "BankID" that is ubiquitous for login to any online service).

    At the time of death, the person's legal and economic activities are converted into a legal entity "sterbhus" (Estate). Until the Estate inventory is completed (normally takes about 4-6 months I have noticed in cases where I've been personally involved) - even with access - your are not legally allowed to do anything except paying bills for services that were ordered before the time of death. To protect other heirs, this is normally a service provided by the bank so there is an independent entity in the process.

    After the estate inventory is completed with all debts settled, the execution of any final will is started and ends with a probate and then the bank accounts and other investment services are transferred to the heirs.

    • wright_is

      That is similar to Germany. Although that also freezes joint accounts! We actually have a notarized power of attorney over our own joint account, in the case of the death of one partner, so that we can continue to pay all the utilities etc. that are on that account. We can't take money out or pay for other things, but all direct debits and standing orders will continue to be paid.

      That gives the remaining partner time to get things sorted and the payments moved to a new account.

    • anoldamigauser

      As with privacy, it seems that European governments have given more thought to this than here in the US...which is to say any thought at all. The only thing politicians here seem to stand for is election.

      • hrlngrv

        American Exceptionalism

        FWLIW, I had 2 great aunts who didn't speak to each other for more than 50 years over an argument following the death of my great-grandmother. Americans tend to prefer feuds to any kind or well-ordered process.

  5. jlv632

    Thanks for all the great replies. Looks like Last Pass might be my option. Sure I can make Family and friends accounts on my devices and leave notes but it should be a lot. More formal and straight forward with Microsoft I would have thought.

  6. spacein_vader

    I've got less than 12 months to live so have been looking in to this. MS (in fact most online companies, especially US based ones,) have no provision for after you're gone.

    My compromise has been to use KeePass password manager which has a Notes section for each login in which I can leave any particular instructions my wife (as executor,) can see. It also contains the backup codes all good 2FA systems provide you with but she'll have access to my authenticator anyway.

    You can close an MS account but it's a very manual process.

  7. hans9

    Find problems in practice, find problems

  8. hans9

    Excuse me, I also want to know what is going on, and I can explain if I can, thank you!