It isn’t something any of us like to think about, but here goes: what will happen to your digital
data when you die?
I’m talking about the photos, notes, documents, files, contacts, and calendars you keep on your
phone. Those photos and videos are likely on your phone and nowhere else. Gaining access to
a person’s iPhone or Android device is a long process, and it is never guaranteed that the big
tech companies will unlock someone’s phone, even if a family member can prove the person is
In other words, all that data is lost forever.
A few years ago Apple introduced Apple Legacy Contacts which allows family members to
unlock an iPhone and Apple ID when they pass away. But you have to set it up before anything
happens to you. Here’s how:
● Go into general settings on your iPhone
● Tap on your ID at the top of the first page
● Select “sign-in and security”
● Scroll down and tap on “Legacy Contacts”
You’ll be able to add Legacy Contacts here and anyone in your Family Sharing Group will be
shown at the top of the page. You can add them simply by tapping their name. This will send an
iMessage notifying them of your choice. A long string of numbers, letters, and special characters
will serve as the access key along with a QR code that will be encrypted on their phone.
You can also print out the access key and QR Code to share a hard copy with them. This can
also be stored alongside your will and shared with a family attorney for safekeeping.
In the event something happens to you, a Legacy Contact will use the access key or QR Code
and provide a copy of the death certificate to Apple at which time it will unlock the phone and
allow the Legacy Contacts to download data (photos, notes, files, contacts, etc) from the phone.
Apple famously will not unlock an iPhone or Apple ID under any circumstance unless Legacy
Contacts are set up beforehand.
It’s the best way to leave your digital legacy to family members, safely.