CBC Forum: What happens to passwords when you die

The ownership of digital property after death a murky issue, says estate lawyer Daniel Nelson. Our Go Public story about widow who went to Apple to get her dead husband's password has raised many questions.

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  • Many of our readers are not subscribers to the Apple fan club.
    Apple won't give passwords out to relatives because they won't make money that way. If they were to give you the password, you would have access to anything your dead relative may have purchased while they were still alive. This goes against Apples business model. They want you to buy everything all over again.scarface0040at 1:32 PM

    Part of why I do not buy Apple. Expensive, awkward and over priced. Why can't they let the widow in? She now clearly owns it.dave777at 12:31 PM

    I am alive and I can't get mine from them...so I avoid Apple and use MicrosoftDenis O'Brienat 12:32 PM

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  • Two sides:
    I'm with Apple on this issue. An Apple ID plus password gives access to everything I have on iCloud, including email. I store it there because it it private, period.Maggie Purchaseat 1:34 PM

    I'm in the market for a new computer and Apple just lost my business. This is not the first question I have about their company. But it is the last.Tingtreatsat 11:34 AM

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  • Which now could bring up the 'Family Sharing' option with AppleID's where you CAN share purchases. Part of Apple Business model I suppose...John Gilesat 1:36 PM

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    Apple users eagerly anticipating the arrival of an updated mobile operating system on Wednesday will find iOS 8 offers features that not only address long-standing complaints but also pave the way for more streamlined use of all their devices.

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  • Perhaps the will is out of date. I did mine three years ago and they have a form requesting passwords to accounts and what should be done with each account. That said, common IT practice is to change accounts every three months if not more frequently and you do not want to constantly update the will for that.

    One solution is a password-keeper application to store all other passwords. If you don't want it in the cloud, passwords can be stored offline as a Word file on a USB key which is only used to update the other accounts. The will can then list this password keeper account information.

    Big hassle? You bet. It's like keeping the spare key to your front door in a locked box buried under the gnome on the left as you approach the door and then keeping the key to the box in the cap of the garden light near the rose bush that died last summer. Damn, now I have to move the box.D. Rand Rowlandsat 10:54 AM

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  • It seems that a lot of comments fixate on "passwords". The client in question wanted access to apps/tools that were used in the household - this does not apply to the deceased persons personal correspondence, search history, purchasing history, etc, etc. Its pretty clear that they were married, and shared a household (including computer apps and tools.) Restrict the personal data, allow access to the apps/tools.deemiat 1:41 PM

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  • Interesting how the Apple 'hater' or those 'who now are' read this as an Apple thing. What we're seeing is that being 'prepared' for a loved one's passing is key. Private/secure items should be just that. Homeland Security has much more fun with Apple over privacy than this personal instance. (:John Gilesat 1:42 PM

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  • CBC Forum is here to encourage a different kind of conversation. 

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  • If the Will is as clear as the article suggests, a Civil Liberties group or interested solicitor might take on the case pro bono. The Will would have to be probated, and this may not have occurred (depending on jurisdiction). Probate ensures that the Will is genuinely the last testament, and that the named executor has all rights that the deceased did. It protects companies and banks etc that deal with the executor in case someone comes later and denies the executor's right to passwords or money etc.. Most jurisdictions smooth the path for laypeople to probate Wills without legal assistance, and at low cost. It's a sad situation for this family, but a single well-considered case would end all worries.Anywayat 1:55 PMDelete

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  • One must be more diligent these days when it comes to wills....everything has to be covered including this topic!Buzzat 1:55 PM

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  • If the widow didn't have the password while her husband was alive, why should Apple assume the deceased intended for her to have it upon his death? Requiring a court order is Apple's indication that as a corporation, it is not qualified to judge the deceased' intentions. I fully support a company that takes personal privacy seriously.

    It would be beneficial for Apple to adopt a policy similar to Google's that allows Google to transfer access to a named third party in the event the original user does not log in for a fixed period of time.jeff_uat 1:54 PM

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  • A few short takes:
    your secrets should die with you, your privacy should not.colderthanmarsat 1:48 PM

    I'm using one master password and it is in my will.Vyshib'allah Vybivailoat 1:44 PM

    Time to include my passwords in my will, I guess.Poet1369at 1:37 PM

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  • It sound wierd but when i visited the Funeral home to understand what should I be prepared with in case of death, so my family should not go through circles, i was given a book which had a section asking the mobile password and password to utility company autopsy bills etc........I di not see Apple password in there....but I will add it now.....and further to Daniels Nelsons advise keep the passwords in safe deposit box and then give the access to the executor of will.

    Hmm......miles to go before we sleep....forever.....deebeeat 1:43 PM

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  • We would report on both of these things, yes. They're both interesting topics with many interesting and varied reader opinions.

    I am pleased that Apple takes privacy very seriously. I am displeased that CBC screams a headline that this is somehow unjust. However, they would scream equally loudly if Apple was somehow manipulated to give up a password...John Scottat 10:41 AM

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  • While she has a right to the iPad, she doesn't have right to the content if it was purchased through the deceased's account. I can't imagine that the cost of the apps is worth the time they've put in so far, so a simple wipe and new account wouldn't have taken very long and it doesn't sound like she's replacing hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of apps. And also, I've heard lawyers advising people for over 10 years that passords for websites and services need to be prepared as part of a will. Apple doesn't know what's in someone's will and it's better that they err on it being difficult rather than easy because this would be another vector for people to break into accounts and steal sensitive information. People would otherwise scream that Apple is lax on security.RocketRaccoonat 2:00 PM

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