10 February 2023 by Hadley Long

Apple’s new Legacy Contact feature

In February 2019, Ian Russell, the father of 14-year-old Molly Russell, was denied access to her iPhone and social media accounts despite his fears that they might contain answers about her suicide.

Apple claimed that it was unable to unlock her phone, whilst social media companies would not release Molly’s data until there had been a formal legal request from the coroner.

Legally, Molly’s data belonged to the tech companies and not her family.  Ian said that, as Molly died without a Will, everything including her data should return to her parents.

New legacy contact feature

Given this distressing situation, it is welcome that Apple have gone some way to addressing this issue by introducing a “Legacy Contact” feature.  It is now possible for your loved ones to access your personal data in the event of your death.  A person set as your Legacy Contact gets a special code that can be provided to Apple alongside a death certificate to unlock your device.

The contact you set will have access to your messages, photos, notes, and other sensitive data, plus the ability to remove Activation Lock from your devices, so it is an opt in feature and should be reserved for your most trusted contact.   Both people involved in the process need to be running iOS 15.2 or later.

How to enable the legacy contact feature

  1. Open the Settings app.
  2. Tap on your profile picture to get your Apple ID settings.
  3. Tap on Password & Security.
  4. Tap on Legacy Contact.
  5. Tap on Add Legacy Contact.
  6. At the pop-up screen that describes the feature, tap on Add Legacy 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 on a family member’s name or select Choose Someone Else to pick from your contacts list.
  9. Once a person has been selected, tap Next.
  10. At the screen that describes how Legacy Contact works, tap Continue
  11. Choose how to share your Access Key. You can send an iMessage to a contact with your key or you can print a copy of it.
  12. Once you have sent a message or printed the key, the person is officially set as the contact who can request your data.
  13. Repeat the process if you want to set another Legacy Contact. You can have multiple.

What your legacy contact needs to access your data

Your Legacy Contact will need access to your date of birth, your death certificate, and the Access Key to access your data.  Your date of birth needs to be accurately set in your device’s settings.  You can ensure this by opening the Settings app, tapping on your profile picture, selecting Name, Phone Numbers, Email and adding or updating it by tapping on the Birthdaylisting.

In the event of your death, your Legacy Contact needs to visit digital-legacy.apple.com to begin the authentication process.

Not an Apple user?

There is no similar feature provided by Android, the operating system used by Samsung and other phone manufacturers.  Data can still be accessed after the phone owner’s death but the methods for doing so are not straightforward.

If you have a Google account linked to your phone, you can use their Inactive Account Manager which allows you to notify people and share data with them if you’ve been inactive for a set period.  The waiting period can be between three and eighteen months.  You can appoint up to ten trusted contacts that will be notified when you are declared inactive.  You can choose which service each contact will be able to download data from.  You can also choose to have your Google account self-delete, but trusted contacts will still get up to three months to download any data they are permitted access to.

If you need any assistance in discussing digital assets, or how to leave these in your Will, then please contact Hadley Long in our Wealth and Estate Planning team.

25 January 2023 by

Do I really need a Will?

It is easy to be overwhelmed by the thought of tidying up our affairs.  As part of this, making a […]

3 February 2023 by Olivia Pisapia

Suspicious Minds: Priscilla Presley challenges Lisa Marie’s Will

Lisa Marie Presley (‘Lisa Marie’), daughter of rock ‘n’ roll legend, Elvis Presley, died on the 12th of January 2023 […]

Signup To Our Weekly e-News

"*" indicates required fields

We’ll never share your details with any third party in line with our privacy policy.