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Family fights to access deceased son's phone data

Many of us don't go far without our cellphones. As a matter of fact, you could be reading this blog post on your phone right now. Without these little devices, we wouldn't be able to text, check our email, take photos or read the news nearly as quickly or easily.

Considering how much information we share and store on our phones, privacy is vital. We don't want our data falling into the wrong hands or being accessible to anyone but ourselves, and there are numerous tools in place to prevent the release of personal data. While this may be of great relief to us under normal circumstances, it can lead to some troubling situations in the event of a person's death.

After a loved one passes away, we often feel like the more information we have, the better. We want to know what happened before a person's death, the state of different relationships and financial affairs, as well as what that person may have been going through. 

Much of this information could be gathered by taking a look at that person's phone. However, this information is still considered private and you may not be able to access it as easily as you would think.

For instance, two parents in another state have been trying to get permission to get information off their son's phone since he passed away in 2013. According to reports, their efforts have been unsuccessful due in part to an absence of laws allowing people to give someone access to digital data through consent forms.

Tennessee does currently have a law in place that permits a personal representative to access digital assets and electronic communications. A person can also choose to give this permission to someone else with a designation in their will.

However, without understanding your options and legal protections, you could end up making some costly mistakes or oversights.

Digital data and access can be just as valuable as any of the physical items we often think of when we think of protecting our assets with an estate plan. Unfortunately, too many people fail to recognize this. To avoid messy disputes and confusion, it can be crucial to have an estate plan in place and discuss your options and the various protections available with your attorney.

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