Client Story

Getting access to mobile phone data after the owner dies

5th June 2019

As our lives are increasingly linked to our mobile phones, the importance of our digital data – photos, videos, emails and messages – increases. After someone dies, how can their family access that personal information to preserve such a significant part of their life?

One mother, whose daughter died in her twenties, found that Apple was rigid and obstructive in giving her access to her daughter’s iPhone and iCloud contents, so she came to Jenny Raymond for help.

Jenny knew that Apple strictly enforces its policy set out in its terms which state that, when a user dies, rights to their contents end, unless their next of kin obtains a court order to transfer accounts.

This makes obtaining data extremely difficult for bereaved relatives, in circumstances where they are likely to be the legal owners. As more and more of our information is stored digitally, it is an issue which will affect growing numbers of people.

Obtaining a court order

Frustrated at Apple’s lack of compassion, our client asked us to obtain the court order Apple required. We obtained a judgment within four months which ordered Apple to provide our client with access to the data. The judge said that he had “no hesitation in making a declaration as to the ownership of the phone and data as having passed to the claimants”, and that it was “entirely natural and understandable” for bereaved parents to want access to their child’s device following their untimely death.

He was critical of Apple’s approach, and ordered that Apple had to contribute almost £9,000 towards our client’s legal costs.

How we can help you

If you are trying to access data belonging to a family member who has died, please contact Jenny Raymond on [email protected] or Ian Seymour at [email protected]. We can help you to access data from a number of providers, including Apple or Google, or from social media platforms such as Facebook or Instagram. We understand that obtaining a loved one’s photos or messages can be an important step in the grieving process, and will do all we can to help.

We can also advise you about measures you may take to enable relatives to gain access to your data, without the need to obtain a court order, should the worst happen.

If you would like to discuss the subject of digital assets within the context of your will and the succession of your estate, either to make sure that your relatives do not face the same difficulty or to protect your digital assets, please contact a member of our wills, trusts and estates team.

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