Apple will soon let you pass on your iCloud data when you die

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The Digital Legacy program lets users choose up to five people who can access their iCloud account when they pass away.
Image: Apple

Apple is solving a complicated problem with its latest iOS update: right of survivorship. Until now, when a loved one or family member dies, there was no easy way to access their iCloud account and absolutely no way of unlocking their phone without knowing their passcode. According to the iCloud terms of service, the deceased person’s data goes with them even with a death certificate.

With the new Digital Legacy program, first announced at WWDC earlier this year and arriving in iOS 15.2, you can designate up to five people as Legacy Contacts. These individuals can then access your data and personal information stored in iCloud when you die, such as photos, documents, and even purchases.

To activate Digital Legacy, Apple still requires proof of death and an access key. Still, it’s a much more simplified process than before, which could require a court order confirming a right to inheritance, and even then, there was no guarantee you would get access to the data.

This has been a complicated situation for Apple, which has long touted its core principles of protecting users’ privacy. Grieving parents and spouses railing against the company for not giving them access to their spouses’ photos isn’t a good look. But neither is doling out people’s data willy-nilly.

Both Google and Facebook have systems in place for designating account access to other people, and it’s good to see Apple catching up here.

You can set up your Legacy Contacts in Settings on an iPhone, iPad, or Mac computer
Image: Apple

How to set up a Legacy Contact

(note you need to be running iOS 15.2 to access this feature)

Legacy Contact is part of the Digital Legacy program and is available now in the public beta version of iOS 15.2 for iPhone. It will be broadly accessible when iOS 15.2 fully launches. Apple hasn’t said which version of macOS will support the feature.