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Using Legacy Contacts to your Apple ID in iOS, iPadOS, macOS

It’s easy to add Legacy Contacts to your Apple ID. A Legacy Contact is someone you choose to have access to the data in your Apple account after your death. 

About Legacy Contacts

Starting in iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, and macOS 12.1, you can add a Legacy Contact for your Apple ID. Adding a Legacy Contact is the easiest, most secure way to give someone you trust access to the data stored in your Apple account after your death.

The data may include photos, messages, notes, files, apps you’ve downloaded, device backups, and more. Certain information, like movies, music, books, or subscriptions you purchased with your Apple ID, and data stored in your Keychain, like payment information and passwords, can’t be accessed by your Legacy Contact. 

Your Legacy Contact can be anyone you choose, and you can designate more than one Legacy Contact. They don’t even need an Apple ID or an Apple device.

To file an access request after you pass away, they’ll just need:

  • The access key that you generate when you choose them as your contact 
  • Your death certificate

Apple reviews requests from Legacy Contacts and gives them access to your Apple account data only after verifying this information. When access is approved, your Legacy Contact receives a special Apple ID that they can set up and use to access your account. Your Apple ID and password will no longer work, and Activation Lock is removed on any devices that use your Apple ID.

Your Legacy Contact has access to your data for a limited time—three years from when the first legacy account request is approved—after which the account is permanently deleted. If you have more than one Legacy Contact, any one of them can individually make decisions about your account data after your death, including permanently deleting it.

To add a Legacy Contact for your Apple ID, you need:

  • An Apple device running iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS Monterey 12.1 that you’re signed in to with your Apple ID. 
  • Two-factor authentication turned on for your Apple ID.
  • To be over the age of 13.

How to add a Legacy Contact for your Apple ID

You can add one or more Legacy Contacts in Apple ID settings on your iPhone, iPad, iPod touch, or Mac. You’ll receive an email confirmation when a Legacy Contact is added or removed for your account. 

On your iPhone, iPad or iPod touch:

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

On your Mac: 

  1. Choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Apple ID.
  2. Click Password & Security, then click Legacy Contact. 
  3. Click Add Legacy Contact. You might be asked to authenticate with Touch ID or your Mac login password. 

If you’re in a Family Sharing group, you can choose a member of the group. Or you can tap or click Choose Someone Else to add someone from your Contacts using their phone number or email address.

Share the access key with your Legacy Contact

The access key is extremely important—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.

  • If your Legacy Contact is using a device with iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS Monterey 12.1 or later, you can notify them via Messages when you add them, and if they accept, they automatically store a copy of the access key in their Apple ID settings. You’ll receive a notification if they decline your Legacy Contact request, and you can choose someone else.
  • If your Legacy Contact is using an Apple device with older software, you can ask them to update to iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS Monterey 12.1. Then you can use the Send a Message option to allow them to receive and store the access key on their device. Or you can print out and give them a copy of the access key. 
  • If you add someone who doesn’t have an Apple device or can’t access Legacy Contact settings on their device, you’ll need to give them a physical copy of the access key. You can print a copy of the access key and give it to them, send them a PDF or screenshot of the page, or save a copy with your estate planning documents.

Note: If you use Send a Message to share the access key, it’s a good idea to confirm that your Legacy Contact received it. However you share the access key, you may also want to print and save a copy of their access key with your estate planning documents.

How to remove a Legacy Contact

You can remove someone as a Legacy Contact at any time in your Apple ID settings. 

  • On your iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch, go to Settings > [your name] > Password & Security.
  • On your Mac, choose Apple menu  > System Preferences, then click Apple ID and select Password & Security.

Under Legacy Contact settings, choose the contact’s name to see more options. 

Tap or click Remove Contact to remove them as a Legacy Contact. They won’t receive a notification of your decision, but you won’t appear in their Legacy Contact list if they have an Apple device that includes this setting. The access key they received when you added them will no longer work.

(This how-to is based on my experiences and info on Apple’s support pages.)

Dennis Sellers
the authorDennis Sellers
Dennis Sellers is the editor/publisher of Apple World Today. He’s been an “Apple journalist” since 1995 (starting with the first big Apple news site, MacCentral). He loves to read, run, play sports, and watch movies.