Miami Estate Planning Attorney Miami Justin Stivers Florida ProbateIn today’s world, many people have an Apple Id, Apple iCloud Account, or iPhone. Often that person’s children or heirs want to recover the priceless information, such as photos and videos, which is stored on these devices or in the cloud. However, without knowing the person’s user id and password, it makes accessing this information nearly impossible. And unfortunately, calling Apple and telling them that you need the log-in information to get this information will get you nowhere. So, what do you do?

Apple spells out very clearly what they need in order to provide assistance in accessing a deceased person’s device or the personal information they stored in iCloud. Apple is going to require an order from the probate court which gives them permission to provide you with this information. So, first and foremost, you are going to have to open a probate on behalf of the person who passed away. Even if the person died without assets, such as a house or bank accounts, or had all of their assets in a Trust or with named beneficiaries, opening a probate will be necessary to get this court order.

On Apple’s website, it says what the court order should specify:

  • “The name and Apple ID of the deceased person.
  • The name of the next of kin who is requesting access to the decedent’s account.
  • That the decedent was the user of all accounts associated with the Apple ID.
  • That the requestor is the decedent’s legal personal representative, agent, or heir, whose authorization constitutes “lawful consent.”
  • That Apple is ordered by the court to assist in the provision of access to the decedent’s information from the deceased person’s accounts.”

You can find that specific information from Apple by going HERE

Based on Apple’s requirements, you will most like have to open a probate and have the court name you, or the interested party, as the Personal Representative. In Florida, the Judge will sign documents called an Order Appointing Personal Representative and Letters of Administrations. With these two documents, you will be able to reach out to Apple to get access to the information that is stored in iCloud. 

Once the court order is obtained, you would contact Apple Support to proceed with requesting access. 

There is one very important thing to note. Apple cannot, or will not, be able to remove the password lock on the person’s device, such as an iPhone, iPad, or iMac. The only way Apple will remove the passcode lock on the device is by erasing all of the information on that device. Therefore, if the information on the person’s device is not stored in “the cloud,” then most likely you will be unable to recover this information.

The issue of recovering a loved one’s files on their electronic devices and stored in the cloud is becoming more and more of an issue we at The Probate Law Firm see. People keep their devices secured with an encrypted passcode, as they should, and often don’t think about their loved ones accessing these devices after they pass away. As it stands right now, Apple requires a court order to get access to these files, but again, they cannot (or will not) unlock the phone for you and will only get you access to the files stored in the cloud. 

Even if you do a Last Will and Testament that says your heirs can have access to these accounts, Apple will still require a court order which makes probate necessary. One thing people might consider is putting their passcode in their Last Will and Testament so that their loves ones can access the devices without the need for a court order. But obviously this is not a perfect solution as people tend to change their passcode from time to time. 

So, for the time being, if you are trying to access a loved one’s iCloud account with Apple, you will need to open a probate and get the necessary paperwork from the probate court. If your loved one died in Florida or owned assets in Florida, we can help you with this. Please give The Probate Law Firm a call at 305-456-3255 to discuss the process.

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