Many headlines have been generated over recent attempts to recover highly desired data from a locked smart device after the death of the device’s owner. While the legal battle between Apple and the FBI over information stored by one of the San Bernardino shooting suspects in an iPhone pitted law enforcement against the technology community, it should also serve as a high profile reminder of the need to address digital passwords as part of an estate plan.
Similarly, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (“CBC”) has chronicled the tribulations of one 72 year old Canadian widow, Peggy Bush, who knew her deceased husband’s passcode to unlock his iPad, but as a result of her husband having taken his Apple ID password to the grave with him, was unsuccessful in accessing his Apple ID account. According to the CBC, Apple customer service initially informed Ms. Bush that she would be able to gain access to her husband’s account once she supplied copies of her husband’s death certificate and her husband’s will. However, the CBC reported that once Ms. Bush provided the death certificate and will to Apple, the company’s customer service reportedly requested a court order to get her late husband’s Apple ID password reset.
Passwords are at the root of our digital assets. They may be required, for example, to access social media, personal assets such as digital media and photos, email accounts, financial assets such as bank or investment accounts, and business assets. Let recent headlines serve as a reminder that smart estate planning includes addressing the handling of digital assets.