How to use Apple’s older contact feature to give your family access to your photos and data when you die

Apple in iOS 15.2 makes it easier for your loved ones to access your personal data in the event of your death with the addition of a Legacy Contact feature. A person listed as your older contact will receive a special code that can be provided to Apple along with a death certificate to unlock your device.

Apple ios 15 2 older contact function
The older contact you specify will have access to your messages, photos, notes, and other sensitive data, plus the ability to remove activation locks from your devices, so this is an optional feature and should be reserved for your most trusted contact. This way guides you through how to enable Legacy Contacts, covers how to access the data after a death, and outlines some of the data that will be available.

iOS 15.2 is available in a beta capability at the moment, but it will be launched to the public later this fall.

Adding an older contact only takes a few steps, but both people involved in the process need to run iOS 15.2 or later.

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap your profile picture to access your Apple ID settings.
  3. Tap Password and security.
  4. Tap Legacy Contact. older contact setup
  5. Tap Add older contact.
  6. On the pop-up screen that describes the function, tap Add older contact.
  7. Authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID or a password.
  8. Apple will suggest members of your family if you have family sharing enabled. Tap a family member’s name, or select “Select another” to select from your contact list.
  9. Once a person has been selected, tap Next. older contact setup 2
  10. On the screen that describes how Legacy Contact works, tap Continue.
  11. Choose how to share your passkey. You can send an iMessage to a contact with your key, or you can print a copy of it. legacy contact share access key
  12. Once you have sent a message or printed out your older contact information, the person is officially set as the person who can request your data.
  13. Repeat the process if you want to set another older contact. You can have more.

For security reasons, Apple reviews all requests from older contacts before granting access to data. Your older contact must have access to your date of birth, your death certificate and the access key you have configured.

legacy contact access key message
The passkey is printed or sent in an iMessage and must be stored securely by the person you have specified as your contact. Apple provides a very long multi-digit key that is a mix of letters and numbers and a QR code that is easy to scan. Apple provides the following information for your contact.

As [person]s older contact, you will be able to access data from [person]s account and remove the activation lock on their devices after their death.

Because the date of birth is used as an authentication target, your date of birth must be set exactly in your device’s setting. You can make sure it is set by opening the Settings app, tapping your profile picture, selecting “Name, phone numbers, email” and adding or updating it by tapping the “Birthday” list.

In the event of your death, your older contact person must collect the access key that was given to them when they were listed as a contact, as well as a copy of your death certificate.

Apple instructs your senior contact to visit digital-legacy.apple.com to begin the approval process. The older contact must log in with their ‌Apple ID‌ and provide the necessary information to Apple.

Apple's digital heritage site
To access your data, an access key is a must. If no passkey is available, your family can still remove the activation lock from your devices, but your account and data must be removed first, and the process requires a death certificate.

There is a wait to be approved through the Digital Legacy process that Apple has implemented and status updates are available on the Digital Legacy website.

Your older contact will have access to the following data on your devices.

  • Photos
  • Messages
  • Notes
  • Files
  • Downloaded apps and their associated data
  • Contact persons
  • Calendar events
  • Device backups

iCloud keychain logins and passwords will not be made available, nor will any licensed media.

According to Apple, your Legacy Contact can view your data on iCloud.com or download a copy from privacy.apple.com. Data can also be viewed directly on an Apple device.

You can remove an older contact you specified at any time and revoke access to your data. Here’s how you do it:

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap your profile picture to access your ‌Apple ID‌ settings.
  3. Tap Password and security.
  4. Tap Legacy Contact.
  5. Tap the name of the person whose access you want to remove. remove older contact
  6. Select Remove contact.
  7. At the warning that pops up telling you that the person will not be able to access your data after your death, select Remove Contact.

From there, the person will be removed and the access key they were given will no longer work to access your data after your death.

Guidance feedback

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