January 9, 2023

STEP is a global professional body, comprising lawyers, accountants, trustees and other practitioners that help families plan for their futures.

They have a 'Digital Hub' with lots of help and advice regarding how to protect your digital data and memories for future generations after you die.

My case study about the distress of trying to access my brother's iphone and photos is featured on their website via this link: https://memories.step.org/case-studies/

You can also read the copy here below.

Linzi Meaden’s brother Stuart was a kind and gentle man who would go out of his way to help others. Stuart, 48, took his own life in June 2020 in Ashdown Forest in Sussex, England, during lockdown.

Linzi, 47, a trauma therapist from Tunbridge Wells, and her family had to deal with the sudden shock of his unexpected death and to try to make sense of what had happened. Stuart had not left a suicide note, and his family hoped that accessing his iPhone might give them some answers to the many questions they had.

However, without the passcode, they were unable to access Stuart’s phone. He had been fond of photography, particularly nature and wildlife, and the phone became one of the family’s few remaining links to him.

Stuart went missing on 14 June and was found on 17 June. His funeral was 10 July. Around 24 July, Linzi started the process of contacting Apple, where a customer support worker told her that she would need a court order to access Stuart’s phone.

She sent the first application for a court order in at the end of August. The judge asked for amendments to be made via multiple emails and letters. Every time Linzi asked a question, she was told by the court that staff were not legally trained.

She tried multiple times to secure the court order herself, which cost £308. Firstly, she was told that because she was not her brother’s next of kin, her 82-year old mother would need to sign the paperwork. Then, the paperwork had to be resubmitted because her mother had not signed it correctly. Then the judge asked Linzi to provide a UK address: Apple had given one in Ireland.

Linzi also contacted her MP Greg Clarke to ask for help. Although he was very empathetic, he was unable to assist. Stuart’s partner spoke to her MP, Caroline Ansell, who tried to help as well and one of her team contacted Apple on the family’s behalf.

At this point, Linzi’s mother felt she could not continue with this traumatic process of securing a court order. Fortunately, Linzi found advice online from other people and was finally able to access her brother’s photos on 23 March 2021, nine months after he had died.

Linzi feels that so much unnecessary distress and pain could have been avoided if the Apple helpdesk team were trained in dealing with bereavement queries.

Greater awareness of Apple’s legacy contact functionality would also help bereaved families: if all users were to decide in advance who could access their account following their death, this would avoid the difficulties faced by Linzi and her family.

Linzi has written a book called What Suicide Left Behind (on Amazon) to help others who have lost loved ones to suicide navigate their grief journey.

Linzi fully supports STEP’s #DigitalMemories campaign and hopes that it will help other families plan how they share their digital memories.

Copy taken from STEP's website