To my dear wife, I leave my phone: bequeathing your tech

 28 February 2023
To my dear wife, I leave my phone: bequeathing your tech

What item of digital tech are you reading this article on? Phone? Tablet? Laptop? Desktop? Or having it read to you by a smart speaker?

While you can leave the physical technology you own outright to someone in your will, you can’t bequeath your data. As an article at Mondaq explains:

“The information contained on those electronic devices is completely different, as a beneficiary under the terms of your Will has no outright entitlement to this information. As a general rule, you will need to specifically include the gift of the information on the device itself within your Will or your Letter of Wishes.”

Even then, you may not actually be able to specifically bequeath every item of data. It depends on the terms and conditions of the various accounts where your data is stored, from your Apple ID account to Facebook, Twitter and more.

This is a topic that unfortunately I have personal experience in, due to a member of the family passing last year. He was a techie and in IT security. So if the main device you use to access all your other information is your phone, make sure someone knows how to, and has the legal right to access it. They will thank you in the end.

Quick disclaimer: all information below is correct at the time of writing. However, tech companies are constantly changing their T&Cs, so do check when you write your will.

Apple IDs

Apple is a case in point. Your Apple ID is not transferable even on your death. What you can do is designate someone as your Legacy Contact, who will be able to access some of your data - but not all.

According to Apple:

“A Legacy Contact is someone that you choose to have access to the data in your Apple account after your death … The data may include photos, messages, notes, files, apps you've downloaded, device backups and more. Certain information, such as films, music, books or subscriptions that you purchased with your Apple ID, and data stored in your Keychain – such as payment information, passwords and passkeys – can't be accessed by your Legacy Contact.”

You can set up the Legacy Contact on your Apple device via Settings > Password and Security > Legacy Contact. When you pass away, your Legacy Contact will need a special code plus an authorised copy of your death certificate to unlock any devices under your Apple ID. Your Legacy Contact will also only have a limited time period to access and deal with your data.

Facebook account

You can also set up a legacy contact for your main Facebook profile.

“You can choose to either appoint a legacy contact to look after your memorialised main profile or have your account permanently deleted from Facebook. If you don't choose to have your account permanently deleted, only your main profile will be memorialised if we become aware of your passing.”

Your memorialised profile will allow friends to leave memories, but no-one can log in.


Twitter takes a little less forethought.

“In the event of the death of a Twitter user, we can work with a person authorized to act on behalf of the estate, or with a verified immediate family member of the deceased to have an account deactivated.”

Music and e-books

According to Mondaq:

“You do not 'own' the music or books. Instead, you have purchased a licence giving the right to listen or to read. This right is not typically transferrable, and will likely cease upon your death.”

Netflix and other streaming services

Streaming services like Netflix are a subscription service. So if your executor knows the account details, they can cancel it directly. If they don’t, for Netflix they will need the

“Mail address or phone number associated with the Netflix account and the full payment information currently used to pay for Netflix.”

Cryptocurrency and wallets

Digital assets such as NGTs and cryptocurrency are stored in a digital wallet. When you open a new wallet, you are given a private key, consisting of an alphanumeric password which gives you access. However, lose that key and there is no way to access your assets. As we explained in a previous article:

“Cryptocurrency companies are trialling “multi sig accounts”, which allows someone to hold an emergency back-up key to the crypto wallet, such as your attorney/s on your financial Legal Power of Attorney (LPA).”

Don’t put passwords in your will!

You may be tempted to write details of your passwords and other sensitive information in your will for your executors. Don’t, for one very good reason – it will become public after your death! According to the House of Commons Library:

“In general, a will is a private document unless and until a grant of probate is issued. Once a grant of probate has been issued, a will becomes a public document and anyone can apply to have a copy.”

As part of our Will Writing service, we provide a very useful document where you can write important information down. This is to help your executors and loved ones deal with the logistics of your estate.

Questions about writing a will?

Contact us to discuss writing or rewriting a will, or any other aspect of estate planning.

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I am happy in the knowledge that should anything untoward happen in the future, Panthera will resolve the problem.

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