What happens to iTunes music, apps and locked devices in the event of a death? While recovering iTunes music probably isn’t going to be the first thing on your mind following the death of a loved one, it is an important aspect of the modern age.

Increasingly our money is being spent on digital products that are locked to our personal accounts via sign-in IDs and passwords. What happens to digital media when you die? It’s not such an easy question to answer, because you sign up to a contract with each digital content provider.

Read next: How to play music in your car from your iPhone

In this feature we will look at

  • Who owns your iTunes Music, Movies and Apps after you die?
  • How to ensure your digital devices can be passed on in the event of death
  • How to recover and access apps, music and other digital content from Apple devices you’ve inherited

Access iTunes Music in the event of a death

Who owns iTunes Music, Movies and Apps after you die

When you sign up for an Apple ID you agree to the iTunes Store Terms and Conditions. It doesn’t mention what happens in the event of a death, but it does feature the following statement:

You may not rent, lease, lend, sell, transfer distribute, or sublicense the Licensed Application and, if you sell your Mac Computer or iOS Device to a third party, you must remove the Licensed Application from the Mac Computer or iOS Device before doing so.

This suggests that when you die, your iTunes content goes with you. But this isn’t particularly the case. The content remains locked to that account and there is no way that you can pass it on to another person.

Apple is not staffed by monsters, however, and you can appeal to Apple staff directly at [email protected] to discuss the situation. We know that in the past Apple staff have stepped in to offer help to people, although they may ask you to prove that the relative has died and prove that they owned the account you are trying to gain control of.

How to ensure your digital devices can be passed on in the event of your death

When you create a will it is becoming increasingly important to include your digital accounts details. We’d suggest including your Apple ID and Password into a will. This makes it far easier for relatives to access an account. And at a time that will be clearly upsetting for them, it is a small touch that will help.

In the case of iTunes then can then update your name, change the email and password, and payment details making it – in effect – a new account with all of the old details.

See: Apple Support: Changing your ID and Apple ID: How to find, change, create or delete your Apple ID

If a person has two-step verification turned on Apple sends a verification code to their device. Typically this is the deceased person’s mobile phone or iPad. It is important to include the passcode to your devices, along with an Apple ID and password. If you do not include any of these then you not be able to unlock, or use, the device. This is what happened to Josh Grant from London: he told the BBC that his inherited iPad was useless because he could not unlock the device, and he could not reset it without the passcode.

View Account in iTunes

How to recover and access apps, music and other digital content from Apple devices you’ve inherited

Obviously the easiest way to recover and access apps, music and other digital content from Apple devices is to have the Apple ID and Passcode. Failing that if you also inherited the person’s physical computer, iPhone and iPad you may be able to use these to recover the password (as long as they are not locked with a passcode). These steps may help you.

Turn on your relatives Mac/PC or unlock their iPad. If you do not have the person’s computer login password you can use the Recover Drive Utilities to Reset the password (see: Changing or Resetting a Password).

  1. Open iTunes (on a Mac) and click on Store and not the email address next to View Account. This is their Apple ID

  2. Open the Mail app and check that you have access to email

  3. If there is no Apple ID click on System Preferences and iCloud and click on the person’s name. This reveals the Apple ID being used for that computer.

  4. Open Safari and enter this URL: https://iforgot.apple.com/password/verify/appleid

  5. Enter the Apple ID and click NExt

  6. Choose Email Authentication and click Next (if you do not have access to Email you can try Answer Security Questions). These tend to be things like Street grew up on and Birth Date.

  7. Check Mail

  8. You should now receive an Email from Apple with a Reset Now link. Click this to open Safari and have a link to a new password. Fill out the New Password and Confirm Password fields and click Reset Password.

You can now visit https://appleid.apple.com and click on Manage Your Apple ID. Enter your Apple ID and Password and click on Sign In. Now you can change the name, address and other personal details.

Apple ID Reset your Password

Closing down an Apple account

If you’ve decided that a more fitting tribute to the death of your loved one would be to close down the Apple account. Apple has a service that enables you to completely close down an account, note that you can no longer be able to access Apps and Music bought with that account.

Read next: How to unlock a disabled Apple ID that's been locked "for security reasons" and How to delete your Apple ID completely