How to Set Up iPhone Legacy Contact Setting: The iPhone Feature to Turn On Before You Die

It can be tough when dealing with someone’s loss and since our real lives are intertwined with what we do online, you may want to hand over your digital information to someone you trust when the time comes because let’s face it – we aren’t immortal. With its latest update to iOS, iPadOS, and macOS, Apple is bringing a new feature that allows users to add a Legacy Contact – a person you trust the most with your iCloud data after your death. 

In this post, we’ll explain what Legacy Contact is, how you can add one and how one can access your information when you pass away. 

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The iPhone Feature to Turn On Before You Die: What does legacy content mean?

With iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, and macOS 12.1, Apple offers a new ‘Legacy Contact’ option that lets you add someone you trust access to your Apple account when you’re no more. This way, your loved ones will be able to access your important pictures, videos, documents, messages, notes, and more from your iCloud account as well as the devices you’re signed in to.

A legacy contact is in no way related to a recovery contact that you may have added inside your account’s Password & Security screen although both the options are accessible on the same screen. A recovery contact can help you get back access to your Apple ID account if you forgot its password but a Legacy contact can access all your files when you grant them. 

If you trust more than one person with your data, you can add multiple Legacy contacts, even those who don’t own an Apple device, In the latter case, you can give someone who doesn’t have an iPhone a physical copy of the access key to your Apple account. We’ll talk more about this access key in the next section. 

When the time comes, the person you assigned as legacy contact will be able to access your Apple ID data only if they provide the access key that you shared with them as well as your certificate of death. If they choose to, any of your Legacy contacts can then proceed to delete your data before the period of access even ends. 

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How does legacy contact setting work?

When you add someone as a Legacy Contact on iOS, iPadOS, or macOS, an access key will be created for this person so that they can log in to your account on your behalf and deal with your account data after you pass away. This access key is basically a QR code that’s shared with them via the Messages app or shared in PDF format. Along with this access key, the person would also need to furnish your death certificate in order to gain access to your iCloud or Apple ID account. 

Once this person applies for your account’s access, Apple will start reviewing the data they shared to verify their request. When this request is successfully verified, your original Apple ID will be rendered useless; instead, your legacy contact will now get a special legacy contact Apple ID that they can use to access your account’s user data. 

The data that can be accessed and downloaded by your legacy contact includes everything you ever saved and backed up inside iCloud Photos, Notes, Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Reminders, iCloud Messages, call history, iCloud Drive files, Health data, Voice Memos, Safari bookmarks and Reading List, and iCloud Backup. 

Your legacy contact can, however, not access your iCloud Keychain data, your payment info, in-app purchases, subscriptions, or any licensed media that you may have bought from the App Store. Besides this, your legacy contact can also not see the data you may have saved in a third-party service or a service that may not be linked to your Apple ID. You can check this support page to get a detailed idea about what data your legacy contact can access. 

Your Apple ID data will be preserved for 3 years, starting from the date of the first legacy account approval. As soon as the 3-year time period ends, your iCloud data will be deleted forever. You should also keep in mind that your account data can also be deleted by any one of your Legacy contacts, even before the 3-year period is over. 

When your legacy contacts get approval from Apple, activation lock on your iPhone and other devices with the same Apple ID will be removed. However, your contacts won’t be able to use these devices right away unless they’re erased back to the factory setting. 

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How to enable and set up legacy contact on iPhone in iOS

In order to add someone as your Legacy Contact on iOS, you need to make sure that you have the following things:

  • An iPhone running iOS 15.2 or later (or any Apple device running iPadOS 15.2, or macOS Monterey 12.1 or newer)
  • Your iPhone is signed in to your primary Apple ID (the same as all of your other Apple devices)
  • You have enabled Two-factor authentication for your Apple ID account
  • You’re at least 13 years of age (or an approved age for your country)

Once you’ve ensured that you tick all these boxes, you can proceed to add a legacy contact for your Apple ID account. For this, open the Settings app and tap on your Apple ID name

Inside the Apple ID screen, select Password & Security.

On the next screen, tap on Legacy Contact

Here, tap on Add Legacy Contact

You’ll now see the Legacy Contact screen where you’ll see all the necessary information about how it works. On this screen, select Add Legacy Contact

Next, select the contact you want to add as your Legacy Contact from the Contacts screen or search for them. 

After selecting your chosen Legacy Contact, tap on Continue

At this point, Apple will create an Access Key for your Apple account that you can share via the Messages app or in PDF format. 

If the person you’re adding as a Legacy Contact is another Apple user, you can share the access key via the Messages app by tapping on Send a Message. You can then send this access key as a message by tapping on Send

If the person you’re adding as a Legacy Contact is a non-Apple user, you can share the access key in the form of a PDF file by selecting Print a Copy. When the access key loads up on the next screen, you can either print it or save it as a PDF. 

Once that’s complete, tap on Done to finalize your new legacy contact. 

You should now see your chosen contact appear inside the Legacy Contact screen under the Your Legacy Contacts section. 

How to remove someone from your legacy contact

If you no longer trust a person as your Legacy Contact or you want to remove them for some other reason, you can do so by going to Settings > your Apple ID name

Inside the Apple ID screen, select Password & Security.

On the next screen, tap on Legacy Contact.

Now, select the person you want to remove from under the ‘Your Legacy Contacts’ section. 

On this screen, tap on Remove Contact to delete them from your list of legacy contacts. 

In the prompt that appears, select Remove Contact to complete the process. 

The person will no longer be visible inside the ‘Your Legacy Contacts’ section. 

That’s all you need to know about Apple Legacy Contact on iOS. 


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