Skip to main content

How to set up a Digital Legacy Contact in iOS 15.2

Let’s face it, in these digitally connected times, we store nearly all of our most important files and precious memories on our smartphones, tablets, and in the cloud. This puts everything at our fingertips and makes it easy to share, but the security and privacy of these devices and services also mean that you don’t always have control over what happens after you’ve passed on.

Difficulty

Easy

Duration

15 minutes

What You Need

  • iPhone or iPad

  • iOS 15.2 or later

  • AirPrint-compatible printer (optional)

Fortunately, companies are starting to think of these things. Facebook added a legacy contact feature nearly seven years ago to let you designate someone to take care of your Facebook profile. Now Apple is also offering a similar feature to determine what happens to your iPhone and iCloud data once you’re gone.

While you could just make sure your loved ones have your device passcode and Apple ID password, this isn’t always an ideal solution. You may not want others to have access to your data while you’re still alive, or you may change your passwords often enough to make it impractical to always keep them up-to-date.

Thankfully, a new Legacy Contact feature in iOS 15.2 makes everything much clearer, letting you designate one or more people who will be authorized to access your data after your death.

Who can be added as a Legacy Contact

Apple will allow you to designate more than one person as your Legacy Contact, and those people can be anyone you choose. They don’t need to own any Apple devices, nor are they required to have an Apple ID.

If your designated Legacy Contact has an iPhone, iPad, or Mac running iOS/iPad 15.2 or MacOS 12.1 or later, the access key will be stored automatically in the Apple ID settings on their device. Otherwise, you can send them the access key by email or text, or even print out a physical copy to give them.

The person you want to add as a Legacy Contact must also be listed in your Contacts app.

What a Legacy Contact can access

A Legacy Contact will not be able to access any of your information until after your death. At that point, they have to supply Apple with the provided access key and a copy of your death certificate before they will be permitted to access your data. Additional documentation may also be required in some cases, such as a court order, depending on the laws where you live.

Once Apple has verified everything, your Legacy Contact will be granted access to everything in your iCloud account except for passwords stored in your iCloud Keychain. They also won’t inherit any licensed media purchased from the iTunes Store.

Note that your Legacy Contact will not be able to access any data stored on your iPhone or iPad unless they also have your device’s passcode. Apple can help your Legacy Contact wipe your device and remove the Activation Lock, but they can’t bypass the device’s encryption.

Add a Legacy Contact

Although this is mostly a back-end feature tied to your iCloud account, Apple makes it easy to set everything up right from your iPhone or iPad. Here’s how.

Step 1: Make sure you’ve updated your iPhone or iPad to iOS 15.2, and that you have the person you want to add as a Legacy Contact listed in your Contacts app. Two-factor authentication must also be turned on for your Apple ID.

Step 2: Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.

Step 3: Tap your name at the top of the screen to open your Apple ID settings.

Step 4: Tap Password & Security.

Step 5: Tap Legacy Contact.

Step 6: Tap Add Legacy Contact.

how to set up digital legacy contact ios 15 2 setup 1
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 7: Review the information screen and then tap the Add Legacy Contact button at the bottom. You’ll need to authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or enter your device passcode to continue from here.

Step 8: If you’re in an Apple Family Sharing group, you’ll be shown a list of your family members to choose from. To designate one of these people as your Legacy Contact, tap their name, and then tap Next in the top-right corner.

how to set up digital legacy contact ios 15 2 setup
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 9: If you prefer to designate another person as your Legacy Contact, tap Choose Someone Else to open your full contact list. In this case, you’ll need to tap the name of the person to open their contact record, and then also tap their email address or phone number.

Step 10: Review the information on the next screen and tap Continue to proceed.

how to set up digital legacy contact ios 15 2 setup 3
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 11: Tap Print Access Key to print out a copy of your access key using AirPrint, or Send Access Key to send it in a message to your Legacy Contact. If you decide to send the access key out via messages, you can still print out a copy later. See the next section for instructions on how to do that.

If your Legacy Contact has an iPhone or iPad running iOS 15.2 or later, or a Mac with MacOS Monterey 12.1 or later, their device will automatically store a copy of the access key in their Apple ID settings. They can find it in the same section of the Settings app that’s used to add a Legacy Contact, by tapping their name and then navigating to Password & Security > Legacy Contact.

View or print an access key for a Legacy Contact

Once you’ve designated a Legacy Contact, you can go in and view their assigned access key at any time, and even print out a copy of it. This is particularly useful if you sent out the initial access key via messages, but of course, it’s also handy if you need another copy for whatever reason.

Step 1: Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.

Step 2: Tap your name at the top of the screen to open your Apple ID settings.

Step 3: Tap Password & Security.

Step 4: Tap Legacy Contact.

Step 5: Tap the name of the Legacy Contact whose access key you want to view or print.

Step 6: Tap View Access Key.

how to set up digital legacy contact ios 15 2 setup 4
Jesse Hollington / Digital Trends

Step 7: You’ll see both a QR code and the text of the access key. From here, you can simply take a screenshot, or tap Print a Copy to print out a full-page copy via AirPrint.

If your Legacy Contact has an Apple device running the latest version of iOS, iPadOS, or MacOS, they can also view your Legacy Contact Access Key by going to the same place on their iPhone or iPad.

Remove a Legacy Contact

A Legacy Contact designation doesn’t need to be permanent. You can revoke a Legacy Contact at any time, invalidating their access key and preventing them from accessing your data after you die. Here’s how.

Step 1: Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.

Step 2: Tap your name at the top of the screen to open your Apple ID settings.

Step 3: Tap Password & Security.

Step 4: Tap Legacy Contact.

Step 5: Tap the name of the Legacy Contact you want to remove.

Step 6: Tap Remove Contact.

Step 7: Tap Remove Contact again to confirm you would like to do this.

The contact will be removed from your Legacy Contacts list, and the access key that was previously issued to them will be revoked, meaning that Apple will no longer consider it valid even if they do present it after your death.

If you later add that person back again, an entirely new access key will be generated, so be sure to ask them to destroy any old copies to avoid the possibility of confusion.

Remove yourself as someone else’s Legacy Contact

If you’re added as somebody’s Legacy Contact, and you'd prefer not to be, you can easily remove yourself by going into the Settings app on your device.

Step 1: Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.

Step 2: Tap your name at the top of the screen to open your Apple ID settings.

Step 3: Tap Password & Security.

Step 4: Tap Legacy Contact.

Step 5: Tap the name of the person who has assigned you as their Legacy Contact.

Step 6: Tap Remove.

Note that this will not only remove the access key from your Apple ID, but it also invalidates the key so that it can no longer be used, even if you still have a printed copy.

Your name will also be removed from the other person's Legacy Contacts list, and they may receive a notification that you've removed yourself.

Requesting access as a Legacy Contact

If your loved one passes away, you will still need to request access to the data stored in their Apple account. You can make this request directly from your iPhone, iPad, or Mac, as long as you’re running a recent enough version of iOS, iPadOS, or MacOS. You can also do so directly from any web browser by visiting Apple's Digital Legacy Request Access page. Here’s how to do this from your iPhone or iPad:

Step 1: Open the Settings app on your iPhone or iPad.

Step 2: Tap your name at the top of the screen to open your Apple ID settings.

Step 3: Tap Password & Security.

Step 4: Tap Legacy Contact.

Step 5: Tap the name of the person for whom you wish to request access.

how to set up digital legacy contact ios apple request from iphone
Apple

Step 6: Tap Request Access.

Step 7: Follow the instructions provided to upload the person’s death certificate or any other documents that may be required.

how to set up digital legacy contact ios apple request approved
Apple

It may take some time for Apple to verify this information, as it’s done by humans and not automated systems. Once everything has been verified and approved, you should receive an email with more details and instructions on how to proceed. Apple will create a special legacy contact Apple ID for you to use to access your loved one’s account. You won’t be given the actual password for their original Apple ID, but Activation Lock will be automatically removed from any devices that used that Apple ID.

This will work just like any other Apple ID, so you can use it to log in to their account at iCloud.com, request a full download of their data at privacy.apple.com, or even sign in to an iPhone or iPad and restore their iCloud backup. Note that the Legacy Contact access key may still be required for sensitive data that are end-to-end encrypted, such as health data and voice memos.

Editors' Recommendations