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Apple Digital Legacy Program Allows You to Pass on Your Data After You Die

Updated on Friday, June 14, 2024

iBoysoft author Jessica Shee

Written by

Jessica Shee


Summary: This article explains what Apple Digital Legacy is and how to set up a legacy contact to allow your family or friend to access or delete your data in your Apple ID account in case of your sudden death. 

Apple Digital Legacy

As an Apple device owner, you save important documents, pictures, videos, and contacts on your iPhone, iPad, Mac, and in iCloud. At the same time, it is Apple's obligation to help keep your information private and secure all the time.

But it also means your account is forever locked as you are the only person who knows the password to it. If unfortunately, you pass away, it will be harder for your families and your friends because they can't access the data stored in your account.

To address the problem, Apple launched a new program called Digital Legacy. That will let elected individuals gain access to a person's account in the event of them passing away. 

What is Apple Digital Legacy

Apple's Digital Legacy program is a feature, starting with iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, and macOS 12.1, that allows you (an Apple customer) to designate 5 Legacy Contacts who can inherit the digital information on your Apple devices and in iCloud after you die. It is very similar to a will, but it is for your digital data stored with Apple.

A Legacy Contact can be anyone including someone who doesn't even own an Apple device. Each contact will get a unique access key, generated when you select them. Alongside legal documentation such as a death certificate, a court order, or other documentation varying by region and country, a contact can call Apple requiring access to your Apple ID and the data stored with it on your Apple devices.

In addition, Apple can help remove Activation Lock from devices that use your Apple ID so that your iPhone, iPod, iPad, or Mac can be restored to factory settings, and later another person can use the device with his or her Apple ID.

This feature is significantly helpful for surviving family members, relatives, or friends to gain access to the deceased person's data for transferring or deleting it. With Activation Lock removed and device factory reset, the device can be passed on to somebody who needs it.

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What data is available for Legacy Contacts

Named Legacy Contacts will be able to access or download a copy of the data synced with iCloud after Apple has approved the request. But certain information remains inaccessible to Legacy contacts.

A full list of accessible data and inaccessible data:

  • Accessible:
  • Photos
  • Messages
  • Notes
  • Files in iCloud drive
  • Downloaded apps
  • Device backups
  • Mail 
  • Call history
  • Contacts
  • Health data
  • Calendars
  • Reminders
  • Voice memos
  • Safari bookmarks and reading list
  • Inaccessible:
  • Licensed media (purchased movies, books, music, etc. by the account holder)
  • In-app purchase (upgrade, subscriptions, etc.)
  • Data in iCloud Keychain (payment information, cards associated with Apple Pay, usernames and passwords, etc. )

How to set up Legacy Contacts

To add a Legacy contact for your Apple ID, follow the steps below:

Step 1: Sign in to your Apple device running iOS 15.2, iPad0S 15.2, or macOS Monterey 12.1 or later with your Apple ID.

Step 2: Turn on two-factor authentication for your Apple ID.

Step 3: On different devices, the ways to add a Legacy Contact are slightly different.

On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:

1. Go to Settings and tap your name.

2. Select Password & Security and then tap Legacy Contact.

3. Authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or device passcode.

On your Mac:

1. Choose the Apple menu and then go to System Preferences.

2. Click Apple ID, Password & Security, and click Legacy Contact.

3. Click on the Manage button beside Legacy Contact.

4. Authenticate with Touch ID or your Mac login password.

How to add Legacy contacts on Mac

Step 4: Choose a member in your Family Sharing group or tap Choose Someone Else to add someone from your Contacts using their phone number or email address.

Step 5: Click Continue and Apple's Digital Legacy will generate an access key with a code.

 Warning: The Legacy Contact access key is extremely crucial because your Legacy Contacts must have both the access key and your death certificate to request access from Apple and then to set up a legacy contact Apple ID and access your data.

Step 6: Share the Legacy Contact access key with the selected Legacy contacts through a screenshot, email, text, or a printed copy.

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How to request access to a deceased person's account

If someone who added you as a Legacy contact passes away, you can contact Apple requiring access to his or her data stored with Apple.

You can either make a request on your Apple device (it is running iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS 12.1 or above) or on the web (if your device is not an Apple product or can't upgrade).

How to request access as a Legacy Contact on an Apple device:

Step 1: Make sure you have the access key and the decedent's death certificate or other legal documentation for his or her death.

Step 2: Request access on your Apple device.

On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch:

1. Go to Settings and then tap your name.

2. Tap Password & Security and then Legacy Contact.

3. Tap the deceased person's name and tap Request Access.

4. Follow the instructions to upload the required information.

On your Mac:

1. Go to Apple Menu and select System Preferences.

2. Click Apple ID and go to Password & Security.

3. Click the Manage button and click Details next to the deceased person's name.

how to request access as a Legacy Contact

4. Click Request Access and follow the instructions to upload the required information.

Step 3: After your request is verified and approved, you will receive an email from Apple with more details and instructions. Just follow the information in the email to log in to your Legacy Contact Apple ID to access or delete a loved one's data.

Step 4: Reset the Mac to factory settings or restore other devices to factory defaults before they can be used with another Apple ID.

 Note: You can access the legacy account for a limited time. That is three years when the first legacy account request is approved. Then the legacy account will be permanently deleted.

In the End

It is the best security practice to keep your Apple ID password to yourself, but all your images, documents, notes, text messages, and contacts will be locked once you are no longer around. Apple's Digital Legacy program enables you to add Legacy Contacts to access your data after you pass away. Also, you can gain access to your loved ones' data from their Apple ID account if they die.