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iloveglee | 15:09 Sun 31st Dec 2023 | Law
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I am wondering if anyone knows what happens, under the law, to the contents of a  mobile phone, i.e. email accounts, texts, messages etc. when someone dies without a will, or any instructions as to what to do with this kind of stuff.

I have posted a few times relating to the tragic death of the daughter of some friends.  Her mobile phone was handed into the police, as it contained evidence that might inform an inquest verdict.  This is now over, and the phone is to be returned from the police.

Problem, and major issue now, to whom are the police allowed to hand the phone.  It was in the possession of her parents at the time of her death, and it was they who handed it to the police.  The police initially said they would hand it back to the person who gave it to them, but it seems that this may not now be the case. 

As there was no will, her property was inherited by her son, who is under age.  The estranged father has parental responsibility and is therefore the person to act for the son under the law of intestacy.  As the relationship between this woman's family and her estranged husband (they were divorced),  is absolutely dreadful, they were unhappy about this situation.  The underage child's father is being difficult, as are they and there is no  compromise or discussion possible between them.  He has complained to the police about the phone being handed back to the parents, as he maintains it should come to him. 

There is content on the phone which the family, and probably the deceased would not want the ex husband to see, and it really doesn't have anything to do with him.  Although the same could be said of her parents, don't we all have messages on our phones that we wouldn't like anyone else to see other than the two people in the conversation. 

So stalemate, in fact more of a mexican standoff!!  It has given me pause for thought about the content of my phone, there are conversations on there I would not like anyone  else to see, and have in fact already deleted some of them.  But if one was to die, suddenly and unexpectedly, as this young woman has, there is no time to deal with this beforehand.  I have no idea as to the legality of who this actually belongs to.  The handset is not an issue, it's not even an expensive one, but the content could be pretty explosive, although has no monetary value.  

It's all a very new area and I suspect most people never give it any consideration. 

I should say here, that the parents have the password for this phone as their grandson gave it to them, but it has stayed in its original state since the police took  it over.  Would they be allowed to delete stuff before they handed it over, or would this be contravening the law. You would think the police would know but it seems the police officer they have dealt with thinks he can give it to the person who handed it to him, the child's father believes differently.  

What a mess.  People - please make a will!!



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If the content on the phone that the family doesn't want the ex to see was in written form in her house - in letters, diaries and so on, then the son would inherit them and be overseen by his father.  It is really no different.  Her family has no legal right to delete anything on the phone - but really would anyone know if they did?

All my vidoes, photos, music, ebooks are stored on the family NAS and backed up in the cloud.

The problem is online accounts such as PayPal, cashback sites etc that may have money belonging to the deceased.  It is important that the account details and passwords are available to the spouse or executor otherwise the money may be lost.

All my important files are in the cloud, with log in details written down and kept in the safe.  It is in my will that all my devices will be destroyed. 


A useful post Barry, my will is over 10 years oll and due for an update so it is of interest to me.

Who is designated to destroy your devices - I assume it's the Executor unless you've nominated someone else.

Yes, it is the executor.    

Personally I would 'lose' the phone (it works for politicians) what could the ex do about it?  How did yhe inquest go?

Just read your update - thanks

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Thanks guys, as ever.  It does seem that the inheritor (the 15 year old) will get the phone, except his dad will get it to be 'in trust' for him.  This will go down like a lead balloon I know with her family, but the law is what it is. 

The idea of losing the phone is good, it works for a variety of people, the problem being is that would only work if the police did hand it to the family to pass on, which I fear won't happen. 

Sadly what will be will be and somehow they are all going to have to reconcile with it.  It's going to be very hard for them. 

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