Legacy Contacts Can Access a Loved One's Data After They Die

Legacy Contacts Can Access a Loved One's Data After They Die
4 minute read

Daniela Fortino

How becoming an Apple legacy contact provides access to a person’s data after their death

Many of us store important information, as well as memories, on our electronic devices. But what happens to that information once we die? Apple has created a new service that allows this information to be accessed by one or more legacy contacts (designated family or friends) after you have passed.

Here are the ins and outs of the new Digital Legacy service and outline what and when to expect when it launches in the Fall of 2021.

What is the Apple Digital Legacy service?

The Apple Digital Legacy is a service that allows Apple users to grant friends and family access to their information and data stored after they have passed away. A designated legacy contact can access  all information such as photos, notes, contacts, messages, and other data found on their Apple devices as well as in their iCloud account. The information and data can also be downloaded. However, it excludes payment information, logins, licensed media, or other data stored on the user’s keychain.

How does Apple Digital Legacy service work?

At the Apple Worldwide Developers Conference 2021 in June, the company introduced the service and provided a preview to event attendees using screenshots of the service.

The digital legacy process is enabled by adding a legacy contact (or more than one) to an account. A legacy contact is an individual who can request access to a user’s data in the event of their death. Users can add any adult, or child over the age of 13, as a legacy contact. It is also likely that users can add multiple connections, but so far, a limit has not been announced. It is not yet known if the contact must have an Apple device to access the information.

According to an article on beebom.com, a legacy contact can be added through the Apple ID section on a user’s Apple device.

How to add a Legacy User

Here’s how to add a Legacy User to your Apple device or iCloud account:

  • Open the Settings app on your Apple device
  • Tap on your profile
  • Tap on the Password and Security section.
  • Once in the section, scroll down to the Legacy Contact tab
  • Tap on the “Add Legacy Contact” button. This will open the Legacy Contact screen, where the users will again click the “Add Legacy Contact” button, enter their Apple ID credentials, and sign in to their iCloud account.
  • Once the credentials are entered, select the preferred contact and tap on the “Continue” button.
  • Finally, choose how to share the Access Key with a Legacy contact.
  • The access key can be printed out or sent via email, Airdrop, WhatsApp, or other communication applications. It can also be saved in the file folder on the device. The access key can also be viewed at any point by following the steps above to get to your legacy contact screen, tapping on the contact, and then the “View Access Key” button.

Here’s how to view and access your Legacy contacts:

  • Go to the Legacy Contact tab in the Passwords and Security tab.
  • Tap on a specific contact.
  • On the contact screen, you will view the access key. You can also remove a contact here if needed.

How a legacy contact can access a user’s data after their death

In the event of someone’s death, the Legacy Contact can request access to the user’s data. Apple has yet to provide details on how they can request access. Apple has provided some guidelines needed for approval. For the request to go through, contacts must provide a copy of a death certificate.

This adds a layer of protection to the service by allowing contacts to access this information only in the event of a user’s death.

Once this request is approved, the contact can access personal data on icloud.com or download a copy from privacy.apple.com. However, it is important to note that there will be a time limit to this access. Apple will provide an expiration date upon retrieval. After that time, the user’s account and data will be deleted. Therefore, be sure to download or transfer information before it is gone for good.

When will the Digital Legacy service be available?

An exact date has not been announced, but the service will become available in Fall 2021 when the iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey software are released. However, beta versions of these software updates are available for testing and will likely arrive sometime this summer. The polished version, without bugs or issues, however, will not be available until later in the year.

Who will the Digital Legacy service be available to?  

The Digital Legacy program will be available to users on devices that have downloaded iOS 15, iPadOS, and macOS Monterey.

The feature requires an Apple device to set it up, however, there are currently no limits to appointing a legacy contact. Therefore, users can choose anyone, presumably, over the age of 13 with an Apple device or access to one.

It is uncertain if legacy contacts can access the information on other smart devices such as through Android or Microsoft. Additionally, no limit on legacy contacts has been revealed. During testing, a Beebom.com staffer added 10 contacts and was able to add more to the list.

Why is the Apple Digital Legacy feature needed?

A significant part of everyone’s lives is on their phones, computers, and other smart devices. Unfortunately, once someone dies, that information is not automatically deleted.

Additionally, with password protection, it can be difficult for friends and family to access this information. This means that many memories such as pictures and videos are unavailable.

The Apple Digital Legacy service provides an easy way to give a trusted person access to these memories without access to personal information such as payment and logins. The service can also protect this information from potential hackers, as the data is deleted within a certain period after contacts have accessed it. Essentially, the Digital Legacy program can help provide comfort to both the user and their loved ones after death and give them access to an important part of someone’s life.