back to article Apple to grieving sons: NO, you cannot have access to your dead mum's iPad

A bereaved man has launched a legal bid to force Apple to unlock his late mother's two-year-old iPad. Josh Grant, a 26-year-old Londoner, told the Beeb he did not know his mum's Apple ID and password. The fruity firm then refused to open up the fondleslab (presumably locked to her Apple ID) even though he has sent them copies …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Apple Sucks

    Even when you dead, Apple lock you in to their closed ecosystem !

    1. Ralph B

      Re: Apple Sucks

      Buried in their walled garden.

      Sounds quite pleasant, apart from the grieving relatives left outside.

  2. BongoJoe

    Well done

    Whilst one could appreciate the need for security by Apple but this is taking things far too far. If a death certificate is good enough for every other body on the planet then why isn't it good enough for Apple?

    I've just gone through the mechanics of sorting out my mother's estate (what was left of it after the care home charges) and everyone I had dealt with were fantastic and every so supportive.

    Apple need to have a damned good look at themselves here.

    1. Rob

      Re: Well done

      Worse than that, they have supplied the will, which presumably says that her 'estate' goes to the sons. All of your digital life should also be part of your estate, especially so if the deceased used money to establish parts of that digital estate.

      My commiserations on the loss of your Mum.

      1. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Well done

        Maybe the physical device is part of the estate, but what if it contains things that the owner didnt wish to be passed on to the heirs ? Why should Apple assume that it's OK to do that ?

        1. Yet Another Commentard

          Re: Well done

          @Adrian 4

          Well if you don't want stuff passed to your heirs, you say in your will "don't pass XYZ to my heirs". Otherwise what's in the will is your, er, will. If you die intestate, then there are rules about it, essentially it goes to your relatives in sequence of closeness. Not happy with that game, write a will so you are happy. Easy.

          Small pedantic point, but under most circumstances you'd need a grant of probate to deal with the estate, not just a death certificate. The solicitors in this case would know the rules and have one if necessary. The Court gives probate once it's happy the deceased is dead and that his or her estate has cleared its debts with HMRC (Inheritance Tax), and the person claiming to be the executor is the right person. After that the very purpose of the Grant is to say to all and sundry "John Doe is dead, this proves I can act on his behalf" to save going through this court order nonsense Apple has decided it requires.

          I think Apple's stance is that "We don't know it's her iPad, and under data protection we can't tell you that." which is an obtuse reading of the legislation at best.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

      Re: Well done

      Good Grief! What absolute fuckwits downvoted BongoJoe's post? There are 6 of you (so far), who need to seriously re-assess you pathetic fanboi attachment to a giant corporation that really couldn't care less about you. It's not like his criticism was in any way unfair, or unreasonable.

      Yes, Apple make some very good kit. However their approach to the law in some of the countries they operate in sucks farts from dead cats (to borrow a descriptive phrase from a friend of mine).

      If a death certificate and proof that you're executor is enough to open up access to bank accounts, then it should be damned well good enough for Apple. They really do need to sort themselves out, and stop being such idiots.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Well done

        >open up access to bank accounts

        You own the contents of your bank account so you can will it to someone

        Do you own your AppleId or do you pay for Apple for a service?

        You don't inherit a netflix account or frequent flyer status

        1. Flip

          Re: Well done

          You don't inherit a netflix account or frequent flyer status

          No, but you might want to cancel the deceased's monthly credit card charges. A death certificate would likely allow an executor to do that.

        2. mrchuckles

          Re: Well done

          "Do you own your AppleId or do you pay for Apple for a service?"

          What about all the stuff you've bought from Apple. Or is that somehow just a "for the duration of your life" deal?

      2. The First Dave

        Re: Well done

        I'm sure the last thing that the grieving family wants, is to find out what particular flavour of porn their Granny was in to.

    3. Amorous Cowherder

      Re: Well done

      I completely agree when my Mum died my old man simply had to provide a death certificate to Barclays to have all her savings transferred to his HSBC account, a completely different bank and it was all done and dusted within 4 days! It took longer to cancel her magazine subscriptions!

    4. Marshalltown

      Look at themselves?

      "...Apple need to have a damned good look at themselves here."

      I always thought they were a bunch of narcissists any way. I doubt that they would see anything that didn't please them.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well done

      If I left my IPAD to someone in my will, and I didn't leave a password for it, then I would expect it to be wiped and not unlocked. What if there was information on there that I never wanted my family to see after my death? What if I knew that such information could destroy my family?

      Apple are right to demand a court order. The information on there could be terrible, and there's nothing to prove that the owner wanted their family to see it.

      BUT, it's clear that the owner wanted their family to use it. For this reason I do think Apple should provide an ability to WIPE a tablet back to factory settings in these circumstances, rather than unlock it.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        Re: Well done


        If you wish not to have your family see your private stuff after you're dead, then don't make them executors of your will. Pick a friend instead.

        There's going to be private stuff when you die. It won't be embarrassing though, as you're dead, so won't notice. But that's why you pick an executor you trust. They then get to decide what to do with stuff, not random companies who just happen to be holding onto it at the time you happened to die.

        1. jmkni

          Re: Well done

          "If you wish not to have your family see your private stuff after you're dead, then don't make them executors of your will. Pick a friend instead."

          That's a pretty catchy slogan.

  3. bigtimehustler

    I can kind of see their point. A death certificate proves she is dead, I highly doubt they are disputing her current status. That however does not prove the item in question was ever actually hers to leave in her will to anyone. What Apple wants is proof that the device was hers to give in the first place, they don't know that account and device were hers when she was alive you see. They could check address details and what not I guess, but nothing really proves it other than entering your password. Thats why they want a court to decide one way or the other, so there is no come back on them if its the wrong decision.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Doesn't the blasted thing have a serial number visible somewhere on the device? This serial can then be used by Apple to trace who last used it. If it was the late mum, Bob's your uncle, no?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      No it still isn't enough

      They have had sight of the death certificate, they have had sight of the will, ownership is not disputed and they know the sons are executors of the will. However, they seem (and I say seem because it is not clear why this is not enough) to want a court order to declare the sons are executors, despite ths being stated in the will.

      As someone says above, Apple need to take look at themselves. If the above is enough for banks, the government, funeral parlours then it ought to be enough to transfer ownership of an Ipad. They could even delete the original account and link a new account to the Ipad in question, which is all the son was trying to do in the first place.

      Condolences and best wishes to them.

      1. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge

        Re: No it still isn't enough

        ...However, they seem (and I say seem because it is not clear why this is not enough) to want a court order to declare the sons are executors...

        I can't see what the fuss is. Getting a court to declare that the sons are the executors is perfectly normal. It's called 'getting probate', and it's what happens with EVERY estate.

        If (when!) you die, you leave an estate. If you have left a will, that is a direction as to how your estate is to be disposed. If you have not, the state will dispose of it for you, following standard rules.

        If you have named an executor, that is the person who will carry out that admin job. If you have not, the state will do it for you (and, I suspect, though I haven't checked, charge the estate). But the rights of the executor can be challenged, so an executor is not an executor until a specialist court says he is. This process is called 'getting probate', and for most deaths it's a fairly standard (though slow) business.

        Directly a death occurs, anyone who thinks he's an executor needs to apply for probate. Once this is granted, the executor can act as the representative of the dead person and distribute the estate. All Apple seem to be doing is waiting for probate to be granted. A bank would do the same.

        1. Spleen

          Re: No it still isn't enough

          "Getting a court to declare that the sons are the executors is perfectly normal. It's called 'getting probate', and it's what happens with EVERY estate."

          I could be wrong, but I assumed - having read about this story in various other newspapers - that they already had probate. I assume they must have done by this point or they would have encountered this problem with their mum's bank, any insurers or pension companies, every other organisation their mum dealt with, not just Apple. Apple are apparently demanding a *separate* court order, specially for them.

        2. M7S

          @ Dodgy Geezer

          Probate is NOT required to settle an estate. I've executed several wills and thus acted as an attorney (IANAL. Any idiot can be an attorney and many also practice as what is referred to in the US as an Attorney-at-law, here we call them solicitors. Not all are idiots.)

          As executor I didn't even need to involve a solicitor in one case and in the other the only thing I used them for was a land registry transfer of the house. It just depends on how reasonable the other parties are going to be about the will etc. Probate is usually required where there are high value estates and the parties involved (Banks etc) want to be able to avoid liabilities should they release funds etc to the wrong person, understandable from their point of view, but not a legal necessity.

          Sheltering behind the requirement for probate and court orders is in many cases on the same level as marketing companies, councils and bailiffs that try to hide behind "data protection" when you challenge why they wont tell you information they claim to have about you (once identity and/or consent is established), or "health and safety" regarding stupid rules in other circumstances. In these cases it's the last refuge of scoundrels and the ignorant.

          It is not the first time that Apple and what happens on the death of an account holder have surfaced here although apparently things later turned out not to be as originally presented.

          1. Charles 9

            Re: @ Dodgy Geezer

            I suppose it depends on what is meant by a probate. If you mean a full hearing and so on, not really. Wills are meant to minimize the need for such hearings. In one case, I was designated executor in a will. I took the will to the City Hall where the deceased last lived (where it goes depends on the location, but it's most often the lowest judicial authority for your area--the one that handles all the local affairs). Your basic municipal hall should contain a probate office or the like. Armed with the will and proof of ID, one should be able to submit the will to the office, have it probated by a clerk (the will now becomes their property and is now legally binding--but it now acts in lieu of a probate ruling). They then issue you a document officially declaring you executor of the estate, giving you the authority to attend to estate matters in the deceased's name.

          2. Dodgy Geezer Silver badge


            ..Probate is NOT required to settle an estate.....

            It just depends on how reasonable the other parties are going to be about the will etc....

            ...and the parties involved (Banks etc) want to be able to avoid liabilities should they release funds etc to the wrong person, understandable from their point of view...

            I think you have just reversed your initial statement. Apple are quite within their rights to ask for a grant of probate, and probate is a pretty standard requirement. There's nothing special about it. As has been said elsewhere, it doesn't have to be a full court hearing, a 'probate office' is fine, but it is the formal proof that you are an executor. And necessary except in some special circumstances.

            From the UK.Gov advice site - overview of the process:

            1 - Check if there’s a will

            2 - Apply to get a ‘grant of representation’ - sometimes be known as a ‘grant of probate’, ‘letters of administration’

            3 - Pay Inheritance Tax

            4 - Collect the assets

            5 - Pay any debts

            6 - Distribute the estate

            You don’t normally need a grant if the estate either:

            - passes to the surviving spouse/civil partner because it was held in joint names

            - doesn’t include land, property or shares

            That seems fairly clear. Unless the wills you executed were simply between spouses, I can't see how you got away without probate if you needed to transfer a house. Perhaps the solicitor arranged it as part of the process? I guess they MUST be talking about probate, because what else could a court order say? Probate legally states that YOU are the executor of THIS will, which is all that is needed - indeed, all the court could say...

          3. chris 17 Silver badge

            Re: @ Dodgy Geezer

            The BBC article has an update at the bottom


            Since publication, Apple has acknowledged it misunderstood the request to unlock the device. The company has now restored the factory settings. It maintains a court order would be needed to access the iCloud.

      2. Charles 9

        Re: No it still isn't enough

        Perhaps what Apple's waiting for now is Declaration of Executor (which would be issued to the two of them once the will is actually executed by the local authorities IIRC). Armed with the declaration, they would OFFICIALLY be the executors of the estate (perhaps that was what was meant by a "court order" even though a judge need not get involved in your typical probate with a will).

  4. Andy Kay

    This isn't doing Apple any favours

    1. Dazed and Confused

      Re: This isn't doing Apple any favours

      It damn well is, why should Apple care about publicity, most of their customers would buy from them whatever happened. If Apple allowed an iphone/pad/pod to be passed on then they'd possibly lose a sale, they'd also be giving up on the chance to resell the content to the inheritor, they'd lose their 30% cut of everything. Remember you don't own anything any more, your only rights are the rights to pay and pay and pay. If you could hand on what you'd paid for then the record companies and Apple wouldn't be able to make so much money.

      1. DiViDeD

        Re: This isn't doing Apple any favours

        Obviously I haven't read the WHOLE Apple licensing agreement, but I always assumed that, on the death of a licensee, all Apple owned kit, including content was to be buried with the deceased to prevent it falling into the hands of terrywrists or, worse, discount resellers

  5. A Bee

    Why Do Apple Think They're Different?

    The way that UK financial institutions work is that there is a value threshold (I forget what it is, but it's way over the value of an iPad).

    If the deceased's holding in that institution is below the threshold, they will release the holding on the basis of a copy of the death certificate and a copy of the will.

    If the value is above threshold, then they require a probate certificate - that is to say, the will must have been proved in court. This is a standard procedure that requires the executor(s) of the will swear an oath that the will is genuine. They then get as many certificates as they need to send to the financial institutions who then act on their instructions.

    Why is Apple different? A probate certificate should function in the same way as the court order - it says there is a genuine will which allocated the deceased's property in a particular way.

    Isn't the iPad (and code) part of the deceased's property?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Isn't the iPad (and code) part of the deceased's property?

      I think that's the rub. Apple are saying they need proof it was.

      1. jai

        Re: Isn't the iPad (and code) part of the deceased's property?

        i think that's it

        otherwise, anyone could steal an iPad or Mcabook or iMac, then go to Apple can claim that their <insert imaginary relative> has just died and they need access to their Apple account

        1. BongoJoe

          Re: Isn't the iPad (and code) part of the deceased's property?

          Ah, but <imaginary_relative> relative wouldn't have a certified copy of the death certificate.

        2. Dave K

          Re: Isn't the iPad (and code) part of the deceased's property?

          And this is an account which is set up on the iPad already (and hence locked), and which is in the name of a relative for whom they have the death certificate and will? Surely that combination of information rules out the chance of it being stolen from Joe Public.

      2. ElReg!comments!Pierre

        Re: Isn't the iPad (and code) part of the deceased's property?

        > Apple are saying they need proof it was [part of the deceased's property].

        Which, of course, they cannot find by themselves. After all they _only_ have an Apple ID linked to a a credit card, and access to the physical location of the device, presumably together with the _history_ of the location of the device. They most probably have more proof of the ID of the last owner than the owner's sons themselves. Of course retrieving that info would require them to give a damn about their customers, which will happen in one of 2 cases: sub-zero temperatures in Hey Deze, or... OK, make that just one case.

    2. Rick Leeming

      Re: Why Do Apple Think They're Different?

      God no, it's Apple's property, they just allow you to use it in return for a metric arseload of cash.

    3. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why Do Apple Think They're Different?

      How do you know how valuable the data on the iPad is without analysing all of it?

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why Do Apple Think They're Different?

      If it involves property, land or shares then you need to get a "grant of representation". You get this simply by filling in a form and swearing an oath (and sending loads of documentation). The grant costs nothing if the estate is under £5k and £105 if it is more. You may also need this grant of representation if the contents of a bank account or value of an asset are more than about £20k.

      Once you have this all banks and other organisation (utilities etc) release the assets to you.

      It seems that Apple are saying "prove your mother owned this". That is not their function. If Apple believes that the sons are illegally in possession of the iPad then they should report this to the authorities. Otherwise they should release the assets (username and password) under the authority of the grant of representation.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    As they are discussing the AppleID and password, rather than the pin to unlock it, it is clearly not the case that all he wants are the images or videos on the device. You don't need the id and password to do that at all. It sounds as though there is more to this story than has been reported as otherwise he would just install iFunbox, plug the ipad into a pc and copy the files off, no need for the password then. (even without knowing this a quick google for "how do I get files off my ipad" will throw up a ton of suggestions.

    Not saying I agree with Apples stance on this, I don't at all, but it all seems a bit strange to me.

    1. wowfood

      From my look at it, the "we can use it as a shiny placemat" and the "false economy" of going through the process of getting the court order. I think at this point it's stubborn british pride. The device was left to him by his mother, apple are preventing him from using the device, so he's taking action about it.

  7. teapot9999

    What do you want?

    Everyone complains that there is no security on mobile devices. Apple makes mobile devices secure and still people complain.

    What do you/we want?

    1. Anonymous Custard Silver badge

      Re: What do you want?

      What do you/we want?

      A little application of compassionate common sense?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: What do you want?

        A little application of compassionate common sense?

        agree fully, but in the same vein I can hardly pretend I wouldn't be bashing apple if they'd reset a stolen ipad based on a fraudulent death claim (or a similar social engineering trick). I suspect this is just low-level customer service avoiding making legal decisions (which they likely aren't authorized to do, especially at a company like apple).

        1. Darryl

          Re: What do you want?

          Then their low level customer service needs to be better trained what to do in situations that they're scared of dealing with. Better to refer it to someone higher up the food chain than to be belligerent to grieving relatives of a deceased customer.

          1. BongoJoe

            Re: What do you want?

            Quite. Most companies which live behind call centres have a small section of trained personnel who are skilled and are able to empathise with the bereaved.

            A lot of the problem here is that they have in their hands something which is tangiable. This is not downloaded music which, to most people, "isn't there". This is an actual physical object like a DVD or a CD which people can pass onto each other.

            We have the tale of one of the correspondents here whose mother is dying and she was given an iPad in her last days. The item, when it was purchased in a shop somewhere, would have seen to be something which can be passed on and not to be thrown away.

            It takes a special type of heartless organisation which hides behind their T&Cs and tells the bereaved that they have to throw the item into landfill. Some form of compassion is certainly required here and Apple should think once again and have a section of people who are going to be sympathetic.

  8. Connor

    Worse to come...

    Even if they gain access to the device, just wait until they try and access her e-books and music. She's dead and the licence to access those materials was for her only and expires when she does. The whole digital world is a false economy, you don't own anything, even the tangible objects.

    1. Peter Clarke 1

      Re: Worse to come...

      Wasn't that the nub of the false Bruce Willis story a year or two ago??

      I would've thought Apple would be able to tally the iPad serial number to the iTunes account in a few clicks. Never mind the courts, go straight to BBC Watchdog and have it plastered across prime time TV then see just how quick it gets sorted

      1. Charles 9

        Re: Worse to come...

        I think Apple's big enough to fight back with those fateful four words, "They were never SOLD." Unless a court of some significance declares T&C's of the likes of Apple's to be unenforceable (Note: a similar T&C term exists for Valve's Steam system, so they'd be interested, too), then NOTHING sold via these stores is transferable from person to person: not even by inheritance (as I recall, lotteries do the same thing for their annuities, which is why many big winners prefer lump sums).

    2. fandom

      Re: Worse to come...

      So they don't need to dispose of all the books and music of the deceased, that's a positive as far as I am concerned.

      1. Spleen

        Re: Worse to come...

        Not as far as the local charity shops are concerned.

  9. Pen-y-gors

    And the lesson we learn is...

    if an iPad owner dies, don't tell Apple, just forge a letter from the deceased requesting that they send unlock codes to Mr XXX.

    Or in fact why wait for the owner to die? Just send a forged letter anyway.

  10. lansalot

    So basically, you're just renting your iDevice... it's not yours to leave to anyone in the event of your death.

    Nice bit of PR there.

    1. SMabille

      The device is yours, but your account and all its content are the property of Apple for 25 generation. Don't you remember signing a pact with the devil with your own blood when you opened that bloody iTunes account?

      All your privacy and data are belongs to us.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Don't use the cloud and sync from your pc. No need to contact apple then.

  11. John G Imrie

    If apple demand a court order

    Then I'd bill them for the privilege.

  12. Ted Treen

    Sloppy research??

    "Cupertino locks its tablets to a specific Apple ID "

    Not at all. I've reset several whose hapless owners (or more likely, their offspring) have reset the passcode and promptly forgot it. All you need to do is set up the iPad as a new device and it's fully usable, but whatever was on before, is lost.

    What you are - or rather should be referring to is accessing the mother's Apple ID/iTunes account without the password. That's a totally different thing and Jasper should know it.

    But hey! Why let reality & facts get in the way of a good anti-Apple snark?

    A little bit of FUD & sophistry always appeals to the anti-Apple adolescents...

    1. Steve Todd

      Re: Sloppy research??

      It depends if she'd enabled "Find my iPad" or not. If not you can wipe it clean easily enough. If she had then it demands the iTunes account password, even if wiped clean, before it will re-activate. It's an anti-theft measure as people were complaining about it being too easy to steal and sell on.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward


      Genuine question here: I've never had an iDevice. But I do have a dying mother (cancer), who just bought an ipad so her technophobe soon-to-be widower can inherit the easiest possible device to help stay in touch. This doesn't bode well!

      Re: "Not at all. I've reset several whose hapless owners (or more likely, their offspring) have reset the passcode and promptly forgot it. All you need to do is set up the iPad as a new device and it's fully usable, but whatever was on before, is lost."

      That would do fine for us: by the time she got the device, she was too far gone to put anything on it, anyway. But it would also seem to negate the security story of the device if it's as good as new. Are you sure that works, and you can register it with a new account?

      AnonCoward for obvious reasons.

      1. rh587 Silver badge

        Re: Really???

        Yup. You can factory reset from iTunes, or on the iPad itself if it doesn't have a PIN set and you just want to clear off the old stuff.

        I suspect if you remote kill it from Find My iPad in case of theft it does something more permanent (although I don't know for sure), but simple resets prior to selling/giving to a new owner/user are pretty straightforward.

        This guy isn't trying to get access to the iPad, he's wanting access to his mothers AppleID, presumably because he wants access to the apps/music bought on that account. Which of course he is not entitled to, because they were licensed solely to his mother.

        A subtlety that is evidently not understood by most of the commentards here. And possibly by him if he thinks the actual iPad is locked and does not himself understand the difference between user accounts and hardware.

        You can get into the rights and wrongs of that particular business model separately, but the only thing he owns is the iPad, and he can clean that for his own usage (and his own AppleID) without involving Apple.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @ rh587

          Yes, it's the commentards who must surely be wrong!

          After all, we're only referring to Apple's own documentation

          "With Activation Lock, your Apple ID and password are required before anyone can:

          Turn off Find My iPhone on your device

          Sign out of iCloud on your device

          Erase and reactivate your device"

    3. Joe 35

      Re: Sloppy research??

      ll you need to do is set up the iPad as a new device and it's fully usable, but whatever was on before, is lost.


      As per another post, that is just plain wrong if "Find my iPad" is activated.

      Once that is done its not useable without the original account and password.

  13. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge

    Light those torches and gather the pitchforks

    This is where public shaming of a company has its place. If he has to go to court I do hope he wins and hope Apple pay the cost.

    Of course, it is possible that Apple are right according to law. The moral is to make sure someone you trust does know your usernames, passwords PINs and IDs or knows where they have been hidden, or don't put all your eggs in one basket, keep a backup copy of any data you want others to be able to access.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    New market.

    Engraving the backs of iPads and using them as Gravestones.



    Bad taste?

    1. Justice

      Re: New market.

      BRILLIANT!!! You could have rows upon rows of iDevices in the iDead Mausoleum, constantly looping slideshows of their dead owner with a holographic Steve Jobs as your guide.

  15. Philippe

    This article could work the other way

    "Bloke called Apple and present fake death certificate to access data on stolen iPad".

    The entire forum thread would be about how crap Apple security is.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: This article could work the other way

      Didn't the article mention it was a Certified Copy, meaning it went through the local government first, and the faking of which has serious consequences of its own over and above stealing the device itself?

    2. ShadowedOne

      Re: This article could work the other way

      "This article could work the other way"

      Except it's not, she died and the death certificate is real. So what is your bloody point (aside from trying to divert criticism with what-if style scenarios)?

  16. rh587 Silver badge

    I seem to remember an article about digital inheritance a few years back that was discussing the growing importance of leaving an your usernames and passwords for any digital services or online accounts you wanted your executors to inherit or be able to shut down with your will.

    In the case of AppleIDs, "purchased content" is licensed to you only, so officially has no inheritable value. Although that wouldn't stop you leaving the details so your kids can use the software you've bought or listen to your iTunes library.

    Whether that's getting into something financial, or simply shutting down email accounts, make sure everyone knows you're dead - they can reply to snail mail that arrives at your door postmortem but not email unless you give them the means to!

    Facebook offer a memorialise function that allows the bereaved to get a profile locked off on production of a death certificate, but of course some people don't want that - they'd rather have the account nuked by the executor and Facebook don't really want to do that (not without showing paperwork*). The simpler and quicker solution is to leave login credentials somewhere.

    *easiest solution seems to be to leave an envelope with your will containing the combination for a key safe in your house. Then leave your credentials in that safe. Executor can't access it when you're alive without breaking into your house, but can deal with it once you're dead and they have access to your house to do their duty according to your wishes. And you don't have to update the envelope with your executor every time you change your password. Seems a reasonable compromise between security and making life easier for your family rather than having to wrangle with potentially many multiple online services once you've died. What you do with your porn subscription depends on how you want your family to remember you!

    1. Sander van der Wal

      Put the user id and passwords in your will.

      And then, every time you must update your passwords, you will have to update your will too. For a fee.

      NSA and their ilk wanting to pass a law that gives the government access to all wills before death in 3...2...1..

      1. rh587 Silver badge

        "And then, every time you must update your passwords, you will have to update your will too. For a fee."

        If you read my post you would see that the simplest solution is to provide the location in the will. Lots of people have a safe or lockbox in their home. Just leave your credentials locked in there, leave the combination in the will. Bonza. Don't have to update the will every time you change a password, but next of kin can get in.

    2. Steve Todd

      A much simpler method

      Add the ability to nominate another backup email address in case of death. Send them a copy of the death certificate and that email address gets activated. They can then reset passwords on their own.

      1. rh587 Silver badge

        Re: A much simpler method

        That's not simpler at all. So for every online service (who choose to implement this, which smaller forums or businesses might not), you have to send off the death certificate, which will have to be manually checked by someone before they revert it to your next-of-kin email, which may in fact be out of date if the deceased hasn't kept them all updated over all their online presences.

        Like I say, far simpler to have them on a bit of paper in a safe, leave the combination to the safe in a sealed envelope with the will. Executor can then sit down with that list and go "nuke, memorialise, nuke, nuke, nuke, pass over to nephew, nuke".

        Whole lot could be sorted in a couple of hours rather than a protracted back and forth process of exchanging death certificates, etc, etc.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Another password storage option is


  17. ckm5

    He should sue for emotional distress in a US court

    I'm sure Apple will settle for at least a five-figure sum + fees.

    1. micheal

      Re: He should sue for emotional distress in a US court

      What pictures do people keep on an ipad that are not on their PC?

      It seems Apple et Al cannot win, either security is too much or security is too loose.

  18. ukgnome

    OK lets remove the emotion from the argument and take another look, but this time factoring the data protection act.

    In that instance Apple are in the right, they have a process in place that is protecting the date at their reputation.

    However, I am not a cold hard logic machine (that's my wife) and therefore they are been bastards on this occasion.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tablets really are just a terminal to an online system.

    Anyone wanting to do any long term investments in an ecosystem beware. For instance suppose you write some music or save some art in a proprietary format which you back up to the PC.

    iPad then dies, you get a new one and then find out the software author has died or discontinued development. Your shiny new iPad won't run the old version of the app and so you're stuffed.

    With physical media and an unlocked computer you could reload the software and carry on as before.

  20. David Pollard

    A national escrow service is needed

    Recently I've been involved with a survey for changes in NHS care practices for patients approaching the end of their life, the so-called Liverpool Care Pathway.

    The suggestion seems to have been implicit that the NHS might hold Advanced Directives on their system. These have details of a person's wishes on care such as whether or not they are to be resuscitated should they suffer a serious stroke or similar. For a number of reasons I very much doubt that it would be appropriate for the NHS itself to hold such records, but some simple and preferably inexpensive way to keep such directives is needed.

    What's needed is the equivalent of a locked box which can be opened if necessary by appropriately qualified medical authorities and which guards the data and reliably records whether it has been opened, and if it has also holds details of who opened the box and why. Besides an Advanced Directive it could also hold details of passwords and similar tokens. It shouldn't be too difficult to provide a one-way data path so that updates to passwords lists could be posted in as necessary as well as a means to allow appropriate access for executors and/or relatives in the event of accident or death.

  21. Ironclad

    Heard this interview on Moneybox

    I actually heard this interview on the Radio 4 Moneybox programme.

    Mr Grant said that previous versions of the OS would

    allow you to reset the device when setting up as 'new device'

    but the latest version doesn't (don't know the details, I'm not an

    Apple user).

    They weren't after their mum's content, just wanted to re-use the


    Moneybox got in touch with Apple who refused to budge.

    However potential happy ending is that solicitor handling the

    will can provide a document (for no extra charge) that

    shows that the mother intended for her estate go to her sons

    and this will effectively act as a court order.

  22. Aristotles slow and dimwitted horse

    Something sounds fishy here...

    And I presume it's not just the corpse.

    What I presume that Apple are asking for is the certificate of probate. This is applied for by the named executor of the will, and is approved by the relevant court authority upon review. It is a certificate that formally and legally recognizes the executors status to (A) execute the will, and (B) dispose / inherit / sell / give away etc all of the deceased persons remaining possessions / finances / legal affairs etc as they see fit without let or hindrance.

    I am presuming that it is this certificate of probate that Apple are waiting for - which is par for the course. This process is nothing new.

    Selective and subjective journalism at it's worst!!

  23. kmac499

    Sympathies extended..

    Having lost my father recently (for whom we also had a lasting power of attorney in place) and being very familiar with English probate procedures. As usual Apples arrogance shines through, defaulting to a US corporate, cover our arse, legal mindset.

    Yes you can be run around the houses in the UK, mainly by financial organisations, until all the pieces are in place, but that is to protect the estate of the deceased, and to stop anyone swanning in and grabbing the assets. Even a UK bank is allowed to pay funeral expenses out of the sealed accounts of the deceased prior to probate being issued. Just imagine if someone had a Bitcoin wallet on the device.

    Apple seems to be lacking the simple compassion to identify the account and possibly produce an inventory of files to give to the family.

    I wonder if Steve Jobs personal iStuff was locked and inaccesible after his death. Maybe that's why the new iProduct stream is a bit thin...

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    From the wording of the article, the solicitor is the executor, which means he should have been making the request not the son.

    6. Once the grant's been issued

    Contact organisations to get hold of the person’s assets

    You should send a copy of the grant to relevant organisations (eg the person’s bank). They should then ‘release’ the assets so you can transfer them into the executorship account.

  25. Mattjimf

    If they have access to the email address used for verification, could they not just reset the password?

    1. rh587 Silver badge

      Yes, probably. But if they don't have access to the iPad, what are the odds of them having access to her email or any other online properties?

  26. Stevie


    "It also reminded the genteel Radio 4 audience that it allowed fanbois to trace their stolen phones using the Find My iPhone app and use a system called Activation Lock to keep thieves out of stolen iStuff by preventing access. ®"

    To which I respond: and how is this relevant to the matter at hand? Are they suggesting that keeping the iPad's account locked will somehow provide proof of an Afterlife?

  27. MrXavia

    Get a court order, make them pay for it!

    If you are the beneficiary of the will, that device IS your property, as is the account connected to it...

    When you die your beneficiary is given access to your bank account, why is this account ANY different?

    Shame on Apple, I say sue the balls off of them, not only to do what they should have done upon receipt of the proof,(the Will, Solicitors letter AND death certificate.) but also sue them for compensation for the pain caused, it won't help bring her back, or really offset the pain, BUT causing them pain financially is the only way to stop it happening again.....

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Because the iTunes contract carries a "non-transferrable" clause in it. Some things cannot be transferred from person to person, even through inheritance. So the heir IS entitled to the device and any personal files located within (as they're not tied to iTunes) BUT they can't gain access to any apps, programmes, etc. obtained through the deceased's iTunes account.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    since I don't think they're stupid, I see it as them being mean, i.e. creating a bit of free publicity (bad Apple), instead of handing over those details quietly. After all, have they checked if there's even a remote chance anyone on Earth (or off-site) would sue them for handing over those details? I bet they have. So what other reason, other than being blue meanies? Only free publicity.

    1. JamesTQuirk

      Re: Apple

      Thats what I have liked about Apple over nearly 30 or so years, NOTHING ..... They are just greedy pigs, but maybe coating it in rubber and using it for a door mat would be the reverse of normal situation, when users are apples doormats ...

  29. chivo243 Silver badge

    iTunes policy?

    I think I remember reading that anything you buy in the iTunes store is not your property, but you have bought the right to have that copy until you are deceased. (Unlike buying the vinyl album...) So, only the photo’s would be the property of the descendant, but Apple probably has some fine print covering ownership of said photo’s as well.

    A related story had something to do with leaving a purchased iTunes library worth 6 figures to a family member and Apple took a similar stance.

    (may have read it here on the Reg, but the search dysfunction of this site can’t find it’s ass with both hands)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: iTunes policy?

      And what's that got to do with getting access to the hardware?

  30. Frank N. Stein

    As far as Apple are concerned, death certificates and solicitor's letters can be faked. A court order forces Apple to comply with the wishes of the bereaved, i.e. cough up the account credentials. Sue and win!

    1. Charles 9

      So Apple believes people are willing to commit a felony (falsifying a government document; I know it's a felony in some US states but what's the case in England?) in order to commit a misdemeanor (stealing the iPad)?

  31. Alexander Hanff 1

    It is pretty obvious that the real reason Apple don't want to do this is because they are currently involved in a massive legal debate regarding inheritance of virtual goods purchased on iTunes. Apple don't want to be forced to allow those goods to be passed on because they stand to make more money if they aren't - they are arguing (along with other players in the industry) that only a license is purchased, not the item and therefore this cannot be legally passed on upon death.

    A recent study I read (which I can't find at the moment but pretty sure I read about it here first) illustrated that even in the present day consumers digital media collections are growing in value to many thousands of dollars, which is expected to increase in the future. Apple and the entertainment industry in general, would much prefer that you can't include these virtual items in your estate when you die - for obvious reasons.

    So, what we are seeing here isn't Apple being anal over security, it is Apple trying to block inheritance without making it look like that is what they are doing because to do so is likely to cause a shit storm and lead to changes in law to force them to allow it (under current laws they are not required to under the terms of the EULAs).

    Feel free to disagree with me, but it seems pretty obvious to me.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Easy Solution

      The easy solution to this is to take a leaf from the pollies. Do NOT own anything directly, have a more permanent entity; family company, trust sort of thing, own the license. Ownership of the company/trust can be moved upon death and continues to hold valid ownership of the license. More interestingly is the case where said company/trust is jointly owned, it has not been tested and IANAL, but it should mean any of the owners can use said resources.

      The closest the T&Cs get to prohibiting this is thou shall not lend, but I can act as the company/trust so it is listening when I'm listening, so that's not an impediment.

      Luckily I do not own any i devices, and am studiously avoiding digital media for precisely this reason.

      Or you can use the XKCD approach

  32. Adam McCormack

    The joys of digital succession

    As mentioned, the cost of the device is negligible in the cost they are racking up - I suspect the more sentimental value is in the digital assets ... just now these do not carry the same protection as physical assets (unless you are in particular US states).

    If you want to pass your digital assets, do it in life; its far simpler just now

  33. MrDamage Silver badge

    Planned Obsolescence

    is built into every apple product, but now it seems they are applying it to their users as well.

    Wonder if they have the patent on "a method or system for completely frustrating the loved ones of a deceased person"?

  34. John Tserkezis

    Why are we even arguing the point anymore?

    I don't have any iThings anymore, so am not sure how what is tied to any device.

    Upon first reading the article, I was under the impression this guy needed the ID to get stuff off the iPad in question. After reading the responses, it was clear there are third party offerings that can do this for you. Further on, it is evident you can reset the Apple ID, at the cost of losing the data (which you had just conveniently saved in the previous step).

    So why get the lawyers involved? Is he that desparate to maintain his mother's details be tied to that iPad regardless of cost? Or is he just an idiot?

    Sure, Apple isn't doing themselves any favours here, but then again, lots of other companies are anal like that. Ever tried to have a Skype account removed?

  35. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Its data protection.

    If Apple unlock this one without a court order that gives the security services some leverage. The NSA could argue that the IPAD they just took off someone needs to be unlocked, and is also a special case, and shouldn't need a court's approval to open.

    Many on this thread have used an emotional arguement. It's an emotional case. But you have to step back and think if the implications. Apple are doing just this. They KNOW that they are getting bad press on this, but they KNOW that it can be far worse, in the long term, if they are seen to be an organisation who will sometimes allow data access without a court order.

  36. Corinne

    The Cloud =/ just iTunes for many

    From what I can work out, the heirs are after access to data held on the deceased mother's Apple account. There is so much pushing these days for people to upload all their data to "The Cloud" and to use their on-line accounts as their prime data storage facility that I would guess that the mother had stored plenty of non-iTunes stuff there e.g. family photos.

    The drive to get everything mobile these days is such that many people no longer have a PC, laptop or any other device than their tablet so they can't back up to anything other than the Cloud, and storage limitations mean they may not have the room on their device to keep everything on it.

    Me? I'm paranoid about letting all my valuable data be the responsibility of some external service provider where I have no control over it or them, and tend to store everything on one of those old fashioned PC thingumijigs which I back up to a portable drive.

  37. PaulR79

    Nice one Apple...

    I'm sure that timely reminder that the security is used to find lost devices etc has nothing to do with the negative press this will get them. A copy of the death certificate AND the will isn't enough? What do they want, to be present at her grave as they dig her up with Apple's own doctor?

  38. Adze

    Insensitivity abounds!

    My condolences to the bereaved.

    The data protection acts in the UK don't apply to the deceased. It is also perfectly legal in the UK to resell/transfer your licences to downloaded software as of the judgement of the Court of Justice in the EU on the 3rd July 2012 (Directive 2009/24/EC – Articles 4(2) and 5(1) – Exhaustion of the distribution right – Concept of lawful acquirer) - the only stipulation is that your own use of transferred software must cease on (or before, I would assume) transfer. There would appear to be no legal basis to deny the new legal owner(s) of a device access to their property.

    Any company may stipulate anything in their T&Cs. However, that doesn't make it legally binding or enforceable other than by threat of unaffordable legal costs should the judgement not go the way of the party least able to afford it.

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