Apple ID Issues repurposing old iPad

I had a 2016 vintage 10.9 iPad that I gave to my father in law after doing a factory reset. He has passed away and I would like to restore the device and give it to my sister in law. We tried to do another reset and set up but it asked for his Apple ID and Password. His old Apple ID and password are not working with apple and we no longer have the his cell phone. To chat with apple requires the device serial number which when I provide am told is not valid. This is a pretty good machine with the max storage that was available at the time. I would like to use it for something other than a paper weight. Open to ideas.

Tough situation. It’s very likely you made an error with the serial number, even if you’ve checked it a bunch of times. I would start there. Perhaps bring it into a store to have them visually inspect it if COVID allows for it in your area.

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Read the instructions when it asks for the password carefully.
You need to add the numbers for the 2FA behind the password before you continue.

Probably activation lock on the iPad?
With the serial and/or a proof of purchase Apple should be able to remove that.

You can verify the serial number by entering it the “check warranty status” on the check coverage website

It’ll fail if indeed the serial nr is invalid.
If valid 'd suggest you copy it to a note for later use. (serials on devices tend to be very small lettering)