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London - Grieving relatives are asking undertakers to place their deceased loved ones’ thumbs on their digital devices to unlock them, solicitors claim.

Desperate families take the drastic step in order to access photographs, music and other digital documents locked behind unknown passwords.

Ian Bond, the chairman of the Law Society’s wills and equity committee, said of the grim practice – which only works if the body is still ‘slightly warm’ – ‘Although this sounds a bit sinister it is done with the best intentions.’

Speaking to The Times, he said that as well as leaving a will, a letter should be written outlining key passwords and usernames that people would like to pass on for using smartphones, tablets and online accounts after their deaths.

Apple and Google do not let anyone but registered users access devices without a court order. Facebook lets users select a ‘legacy contact’ responsible for managing the account after death.