Digital assets after death

Year Published: 2021

What happens to data on a phone or device after someone dies? Helen Gowin, Partner, reports on a new service from Apple that enables loved ones to retrieve digital assets after death.

Most people have a mobile phone or device and store their information in a cloud-based service. Their digital ‘assets’ may be a wide range of data including photos, videos, music, ebooks – in effect anything stored on digital devices or online. However, many may not know which digital providers enable their loved ones to retrieve their photos, videos and other content on their death and if the privacy policies restrict them from doing so. Often, the last thing your loved ones want is for those precious memories to disappear after you have gone.

You can plan ahead and keep a list of your online and social media sites and what you would like to happen on your death, but this will be limited to the policies of each provider and will merely be a statement of your wishes rather than a legally binding document.

Amongst Apple’s announcements this week at their annual conference they have confirmed that users will soon be offered a digital legacy service. This is expected to launch later this year and means that your data can be made available to family or friends in the event of your death. You can either choose to have your account deleted or to nominate a named individual to be granted access. If you want data passed on, you will be able to add a legacy contact to your account who will be able to request access following your death on production of the death certificate. It is expected that some restrictions on retrieving data such as financial information or access to payments will apply and Apple will set an expiry date to retrieve the data before it is deleted. It is however a step in the right direction in allowing digital data to become available for the family of a deceased person.

Other social media accounts such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram will delete an account on notification of a death and Google have set up tools to allow an account to be deactivated after a period of inactivity.

The important thing is to keep a list of your digital accounts, review the policies and note down your wishes if you want your family or friends to be able to access your personal memories. You may also want to provide log in details to your executors or keep this with your Will. The steps you take now will make things easier for your loved ones at a difficult time to ensure your digital data is preserved for the future.

For more information, please contact Helen Gowin, Partner in our Private Client team on 01260 282351 or email [email protected] 





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