Your Apple ID information has a place to go after your death, provided you use Apple’s new Digital Legacy to designate up to five people who will have access to all your files and data as you make your way to the Afterlife.
The position was already pledged at Apple’s Worldwide Developer’s Conference in June. Starting today, the feature will actually be available as part of the iOS 15.2 update (which also adds the Apple Music Siri-only subscription). It’s a nice idea to make sure that all the data you’ve accumulated over the years on your Apple devices isn’t lost when you die. After all, they are collected by Apple and stored in the cloud under your Apple ID.
You should not see this as transferring your credentials and iPhone PIN. It goes beyond that. The position assumes that you are no longer there to manage your affairs or secure your important data. The person you give access will also have full access to almost everything stored with the ID. This includes photos, notes, email, contacts, calendars, iCloud Drive files, backups, health data, and even Safari bookmarks. Yes, it’s quite a list!
It is not possible to determine what a Legacy Contact can and cannot see. Maybe it’s time to clean up a bit now.
How does it work?
There are now settings within iOS that allow you to save up to five Legacy Contacts. They receive a message asking them to fulfill that role. You will of course see if they accept the request. The contacts who accept the task are given a passcode that is stored in their own Apple ID settings.
When you die, a Legacy Contact can enter the access code on Apple’s Digital Legacy page or through the Legacy Contact page on the iPhone. In addition, proof of death must be handed over, in the form of a death certificate. From that moment on, they have access to all data.
Apple’s settings page where you can add new Legacy contacts. (Image credit: Future)
Analysis: What happens after you die?
The question of what happens to our digital selves when we die has been asked many times. Facebook is creating memorial accounts for deceased relatives, which is a way to preserve Uncle Frans’ collection of cat videos. Twitter is working with family members to relegate (or deactivate) access to accounts to administrators. Although I don’t think anyone is going to put a lot of energy into that if you don’t give the relatives a concrete order to do so.
However, it remains a broader problem: what should you do with the important personal data? Daniel Sieberg and Rikard Steiber, the founders of the Digital Legacy preservation platform Goodtrust, have written a book: Digital legacy: Take Control of Your Online Afterlife. This book explores the digital questions about the afterlife that most of us face, and how virtually everyone else fails to face them.
“This is an important feature for both Apple and the end users. It is almost impossible to retrieve photos from Apple iCloud of a deceased loved one because consumers must prove that the loved one has died, but also that the requesting person is the legal beneficiary of In many cases, Apple can demand a court order ordering Apple to deliver photos of the deceased to the next of kin,” said Steiber, CEO of GoodTrust.
If you want to assign Legacy contacts, you can follow these simple steps. I recommend contacting those relatives first. No need to scare them with discussions about your death, let’s hope it doesn’t happen soon.
Open Settings on your iPhone and select your Apple ID at the top of the screen. Then select Password & Security and the Legacy Contact feature. There you will find the option to add new Legacy contacts. This could be friends, family or anyone you trust with your digital legacy.
Already using Apple Family Sharing? Then you can easily add family members to the list. Only family members older than 13 have access to your account with a Legacy Key. It is also very easy to remove your ex from your Legacy contacts. Follow the same steps to the Legacy Contacts menu, select the name and then delete them as a contact.
As I noted above, the keys are automatically saved on the iPhone from the Legacy Contacts. If they do not have the latest version of iOS or if they work with an Android smartphone, for example, you can print the Heritage Key or make a PDF of it and send it to them.
After you gain access to the account, you can manage it for up to three years. That works just like any other active Apple ID, including 2-factor authentication. After the three years, the account will be closed and you will lose all associated data.