A new feature contained within Apple’s latest software update is set to pave the way for access to certain digital assets after death.
Users of Apple devices equipped with iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, and macOS 12.1 can now add a Legacy Contact to their Apple ID, which Apple say is “the easiest, most secure way to give someone you trust access to the data stored in your Apple account after your death”.
Those with an Apple ID can choose anybody they like to be their Legacy Contact, and can choose to designate more than one.
Legacy Contacts do not need an Apple device or Apple ID. To file a request to access the assets of the deceased, they will need an access key that is generated when they were chosen as a Legacy Contact alongside the death certificate.
Apple will then review requests and only permit access once the information has been verified.
When access has been approved, Legacy Contacts will receive a special Apple ID that they can set up and use to access the deceased’s account for a period of three years after their request was approved, after which the deceased’s account will be permanently deleted.
Legacy Contacts will be able to access data such as photos, messages, notes, files, apps, device backups, and more.
However, certain information such as films, music, books, subscriptions, or data stored in Keychain – such as payment information, passwords, and passkeys – cannot be accessed by Legacy Contacts.
Adding a Legacy Contact – iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch
- Go to Settings, then tap your name.
- Tap Password & Security, then tap Legacy Contact.
- Tap Add Legacy Contact. You may be asked to authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or your device passcode.
Adding a Legacy Contact – Mac
- Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Apple ID.
- Click Password & Security, then click Legacy Contact.
- Click Add Legacy Contact. You may be asked to authenticate with Touch ID or your Mac login password.
Sharing the access key
The key – which is crucial to allow for access – can be either printed or shared with the Legacy Contact via Messages. If they accept your invitation using the latter method, a copy of the access key will automatically be stored in their Apple ID settings. Note that they must be using the software iterations mentioned above (or later) for this to work.
Removing a legacy contact
- On your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch, go to Settings > [your name] > Password & Security.
- On your Mac, choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Apple ID and select Password & Security.
- Under Legacy Contact settings, choose the contact’s name to see more options.
- Tap or click Remove Contact to remove them as a Legacy Contact. They won’t receive a notification of your decision, but you won’t appear in their Legacy Contact list if they have an Apple device that includes this setting. The access key they received when you added them will no longer work.