Apple (sometimes) deletes inactive accounts
“General Termination” seems to suggest that, in essence, Apple will, in its sole discretion, determine whether an account has been terminated and will therefore be terminated. In either case, there is always a 30-day warning in the removal process, so it shouldn’t grab anyone from the sky.
What happens to your iCloud after death
As you know, your iCloud account stores essentially all of your iPhone data, including backups, photos, videos, iMessages, and text, purchase history for Apple services (including music and movies)
This essentially means that no surviving family member is simply allowed to “inherit” access to the deceased’s account. The best thing you can hope for (under this clause) is a complete account deletion, to lighten the load on Apple’s cloud servers. However, there is no standardized process for this – or at least one that is not made public. You will need to contact Apple services requesting a copy of your death certificate. Then they simply wipe out the existence of the account.
However, “unless otherwise required by law“makes us think there may be a way to get an account or account transfer through a lawyer or legal representative appointed by law to deal with the deceased’s affairs. (Either this or an official death investigation that requires an iCloud account as evidence.)
There is a (legal) way – a lot of paperwork
Apple orders that the court ruling determine the following details before they can proceed:
- Name of deceased person and Apple ID.
- The name of the next relative requesting access to the account of the debtor.
- That the deceased was a user of all accounts associated with the Apple ID.
- The applicant is the legal representative, agent or heir of the debtor whose authorization is “legal consent”.
- The court orders Apple to assist in accessing the recoverable information from the deceased person’s accounts.
Are there any loopholes? What if you don’t have a court decision?
We suspect that if there is another, easier option, Apple will simply not tell us. What if for some reason a loved one is unable to get a court decision? It regularly happens that a relative who was closest to the deceased is not a legal representative or heir and may not be able to provide those documents.
This may well avoid system abuse, as Apple is proud of the security of its account – but it can also make it very difficult for loved ones alive.
We contacted Apple to find out more and will update this if they ever return to us.
However, Apple has already released helpful advice to avoid the potential hassle of desperately trying to get into an Apple account after death.
Of course, wills are not what most non-retired people think they write, and mostly middle-aged and younger groups keep all their photos and memories on their phones. Therefore, it can be difficult to anticipate and deal with. And while there Is based on an existing will that gives you access to photos of the deceased, you still need to get a court order to get Apple to cooperate.
Using an ICloud account via email
If you have access to a deceased person’s email account (the account they set up their iCloud with), you may be able to bypass any legitimate issues and access iCloud in minutes.
If they were using a Windows computer or laptop (or an older Mac before the T2 chip came in), there are simple ways to bypass the Windows password and enter the system – where they probably had already Signed in to their email.
Using the “Forgot Password” feature when you signed in to iCloud, you can easily change your account password by clicking the “Reset Password” link sent to the email associated with your account. Once you’ve changed your password, you can access iCloud over the network or set it up on any other iPhone.
Apple may forcibly delete your account
Imagine you couldn’t get into an account this way, and you went through the whole formal process to get the right court order from the right person and convince Apple to work with you (some Apple users find it very difficult to even find Apple “experts” who know the process).
Imagine you’ve done all this – a process that can take several nasty months – only when Apple tells you they’re going to forcibly delete a dead account (albeit with a 30-day notice period)?
Due to Fischer’s experience, if you continue to do so in an official way, you may even end up deleting a deceased account – hopefully after you have had the opportunity to transfer important information. It’s good to keep this in mind when deciding what to do.
If it ever hurts and you receive similar treatment from Apple, it’s a good idea to be armed with knowledge of that practice as well as the required court order. Then Apple would have no choice but to find someone to work with you (who may also end up deleting the account, but I think you can’t always get your cake and eat it too).
But what happens to the iPhone?
If no one other than the deceased ever had access to the iPhone password, unfortunately entering the device with the original account is the lost reason. Even the FBI has never been able to cut any special treatment for passwords locked from Apple: The company will never make exceptions.
Even if you have gained official access to the deceased’s iCloud account but do not have a phone password, you will either need to set iCloud on a separate phone or reset the original phone to factory settings. However, the second option means that all data that has not been backed up to iCloud will be deleted.