What Happens to Your Apple Account When You Die? Set up Access to Your Digital Assets Now

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While it’s not a fun or easy topic to think about as 2021 draws to a close, you might want to make plans concerning who can access your digital assets — including photos, videos and documents — when you die.

See: More Young Americans Writing Wills Due to COVID Fears: How Much Does Estate Planning Cost?
Find: How To Set Up An Estate Plan

The Apple Digital Legacy Program enables users to choose up to five “legacy contacts” to whom the assets can be transferred to after death. Apple explains that the contacts don’t even need an Apple ID or an Apple device, they will just need the access key that you generate when you choose them as your contact as well as the death certificate.

“Apple reviews requests from Legacy Contacts and gives them access to your Apple account data only after verifying this information,” the company explains on its website.

When access is approved, the contact receives a special Apple ID that they can set up and use to access the account. “Your Apple ID and password will no longer work, and Activation Lock is removed on any devices that use your Apple ID,” Apple adds.

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First, in order to be able to add a legacy contact for your Apple ID, you need to make sure the device is updated and running iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS Monterey 12.1. You will also need two-factor authentication turned on for your Apple ID and be over the age of 13.

Apple explains how to add legacy contacts on their website, and instructions follow.

On an iPhone, iPad or iPod touch:

  • Go to Settings, then tap your name.
  • Tap Password & Security, then tap Legacy Contact.
  • Tap Add Legacy Contact. You might be asked to authenticate with Face ID, Touch ID, or your device passcode.

On a Mac:

  • Choose Apple menu > System Preferences, then click Apple ID.
  • Click Password & Security, then click Legacy Contact.
  • Click Add Legacy Contact. You might be asked to authenticate with Touch ID or your Mac login password.
  • Tap or click Continue to learn more and choose how to share the access key with your Legacy Contact.
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The access key is extremely important, as your legacy contact must have both the access key and your death certificate to request access after you pass away. Then they’ll need the access key again to set up a legacy contact Apple ID and access your data, according to Apple.

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If you are a legacy contact, here’s how to access information after a person has passed away, according to BGR.in:

  • You will need to visit digital-legacy.apple.com to log in with an iCloud account.
  • Enter your access key.
  • Upload the death certificate, which the Apple team will verify.
  • You will receive a link to create a password for the account, which can be used to log into Apple devices to access data.

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About the Author

Yaël Bizouati-Kennedy is a full-time financial journalist and has written for several publications, including Dow Jones, The Financial Times Group, Bloomberg and Business Insider. She also worked as a vice president/senior content writer for major NYC-based financial companies, including New York Life and MSCI. Yaël is now freelancing and most recently, she co-authored  the book “Blockchain for Medical Research: Accelerating Trust in Healthcare,” with Dr. Sean Manion. (CRC Press, April 2020) She holds two master’s degrees, including one in Journalism from New York University and one in Russian Studies from Université Toulouse-Jean Jaurès, France.

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