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Will New Security and Unlock Measures Lead to Passwords in Your Will?



Interesting story that should leave us all with something to think about. A woman purchased an iPad while she was undergoing cancer treatment. She later passed away and bequeathed the iPad to one of her five sons. Her son discovered that he didn’t have his mother’s password or Apple ID so he couldn’t unlock the iPad. In attempting to get assistance from Apple the family provided the documentation that Apple requested including her will, death certificate, and a solicitor’s letter but they couldn’t provide any written documentation from their mother proving she wanted to have the device unlocked.


Unfortunately Apple has yet to provide assistance in unlocking the device due to its new and celebrated security measures called Activation Lock which is designed to act as a theft deterrent. Apple is following its policies as written on this and legal wrangling about the policy appears to be ongoing. But it certainly brings up an intriguing issue for the future.

We hear calls for device “kill switches,” and we know that work moves forward on finding better security measures for devices in the cat and mouse game of staying ahead of hackers and thieves. Given the ever more stringent security requirements we keep adding and adopting, how will we hand down our locked devices, digital lockers, and access to Internet services after we pass away? Will this become a standard new section that lawyers ask about when helping clients create a Last Will and Testament? Will we see some sort of blanket form or order that we each fill out allowing our survivors access to our data? Will we have to update whatever legal instruments we provide every time we change a password?

If something, heaven forbid, happened to you tomorrow how would your loved ones access your data or your password protected device? There have been services created to help you plan to help your survivors deal with your digital life after you’re gone. There are also services being started that will keep tweeting or sending Facebook messages once you have shrugged off your mortal coil. Most of us would actually have to put some thought into all of the services and applications that we use that require some sort of security or password access.

For many, just thinking about creating a will is a touchy subject, but as our digital lives continue to become more and more a part of our lives in general, perhaps we should start thinking about making sure those left behind have the access they need to fulfill our last wishes.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Tim Higgins

    03/06/2014 at 4:58 pm

    Warren, my solution may not work for everyone but I’m OK with it. I have a desktop, tablet, smartphone & laptop devices like many people do. My wife also has multiple devices. We both use a password manager, Password Safe in my case. My password manager database resides in my Dropbox account. Password safe encrypts their database, and Dropbox encrypts what is stored there, as well. I have given my desktop password and my Dropbox account info to my wife, and she has given me hers. In case of my untimely demise, my wife will be able to access my desktop, thus my Password Safe and thus all my passwords. I can do the same with hers. Naturally we trust each other enough to confidently do so. This is much more flexible than including a written document in a safe, fire box, or safety deposit box somewhere.

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