What is Apple Digital Legacy and how do Legacy Contacts work?

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You probably store a lot of information on your Apple devices and in iCloud. You might even want friends or loved ones to be able to access your data and beloved memories after you’re gone.

If that’s the case, you can just set up Digital Legacy. Here’s how.

What is Apple Digital Legacy?

At WWDC 2021, Apple announced a new programme that is coming with iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey. Called Digital Legacy, it basically lets you pass down your information to family and friends if you pass away. You’ll be able to add “legacy contacts” to your account. So, when you’re gone, they can simply request access, and then your information will be handed over.

When will Apple Digital Legacy be available?

The ability to add Legacy Contacts will be available when iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey roll out to consumers in autumn 2021. Currently, developer betas of those software updates are available for testing, and the public betas are set to arrive this summer. However, you’ll likely want to wait until they officially roll out later this year, to ensure they’re free of any major bugs.

How Digital Legacy and Legacy Contacts work

Since Digital Legacy is not yet available for consumers (nor is iOS 15, iPadOS 15, and macOS Monterey), the process for enrolling in the programme and adding a Legacy Contact is not clear. Apple didn’t provide a demo during WWDC 2021, but it did show a few screenshots, from which we can glean certain details. We’re hoping to soon test the feature in the iOS 15 developer beta.

Add a Legacy Contact to your account

Apple said you can add a Legacy Contact from your iPhone. Presumably, this feature will be buried in the Settings app, possibly under the Apple ID > Password and Security. From there, most likely, you will be able to add multiple people you trust to have access to the data in your account after your death.

Although it’s not yet clear how to add Legacy Contacts, it looks like you can add adults and children (over 13). We’re guessing whoever is added as a Legacy Contact must consent and accept the invitation first. It’s currently unknown if they will need an Apple device in order to do this and be your Legacy Contact.

Apple showed the Legacy Contact setup screen on iOS, but that screen might also be available on other Apple devices, such as iPads and Macs. After all, the company mentioned you can access your loved one’s data from iCloud.com or from iPhone, iPad, and Mac. We’ll let you know as soon as we find out more.

Request access to a loved one’s data

If you’re someone’s Legacy Contact, Apple said you will be able to request access to their data via Digital Legacy. Again, it’s not yet known how this will work. Presumably, you will do it from your own iPhone or Apple device – possibly through Settings or iCloud somewhere. Apple said you will need to provide a copy of a death certificate to actually request access, however.

How to find and view your loved one’s data

Once your request is approved, Apple said the activation lock on your loved one’s Apple device will be removed, and then you will be able to access their personal data on icloud.com or download a copy from privacy.apple.com. On an iOS device or iPadOS device, you can even restore their data from an iCloud Backup. You can access their iCloud data on a Mac, too.

What sort of data will be accessible?

It looks like you will be able to access your loved one’s iCloud data and Apple ID account data. This includes things like Photos, Notes, and Mail. But you will not be able to access or view their payment information, subscriptions, licensed media, or data stored in Keychain. Again, all this data will be accessible either from the web or from Apple devices, so you’ll have options.

Will your loved one’s data be available forever?

No, once you request access, Apple will give you an expiration date. After that date, their account and data will be deleted. It’ll be interesting to see if Apple offers easy ways for you to transfer things like photos before they’re gone for good.

Want to know more?

So do we! Pocket-lint plans to update this guide as soon as we have the latest information about how Digital Legacy works.

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