Apple’s Digital Legacy Program Explained

Starting with iOS 15.2, macOS 12.1 and iPadOS 15.2, Apple officially debuted a program called Digital Legacy. The new program is an initiative that makes it easy for those in the Apple ecosystem to pass on their private data to their next of kin in the event of their death.

Here’s everything you need to know about Apple’s Digital Legacy program, including how it works, its availability and the different types of transferrable data.

What Is Apple’s Digital Legacy?

Apple’s Digital Legacy program is an initiative by the company to make it easy for you to pass down your digital data to your family or friends in the event of your death. Digital Legacy can be likened to a will, but this one is for your digital information stored with Apple.

Digital Legacy was officially announced during Apple’s 2021, online-only WWDC event, held in June 2021.

This program is especially handy now, more than ever, as more of our data moves online. While you could previously request access to an Apple ID and its private data after someone passed away, it wasn’t a smooth ride. Also, the chances of success weren’t so impressive.

Digital Legacy is here to change that by allowing you to select a Legacy Contact—someone who will be able to request access to your iCloud account and data with a unique access key—before you die.

A Legacy Contact is anyone you select as your next of kin to your Apple ID account. Check out our step-by-step guide on how to set up Legacy contacts on your device for more information.


Related: How to Set Up Legacy Contacts to Pass On Your iCloud Data When You Die

How Apple’s Digital Legacy Program Works

Apple store with crowds and people lining up.

The inner workings of Apple’s Digital Legacy are simple. To use it, you have to designate someone as your Legacy Contact. As previously mentioned, a Legacy Contact is someone who will be able to request access to your iCloud data when you die.

You can have more than one Legacy Contact, and it can be anyone—even someone without an Apple device. Each contact will get a unique access key, generated when you select them. They will need a death certificate alongside this key to access your data.

Once their request is approved, they will have access to your iCloud account and data for three years after the first Legacy Contact account request is approved. Apple will permanently delete the account after this period.

If you’ve selected more than one Legacy Contact, any of them can request access to your iCloud account. Each will also have the power to make decisions about your account data, including permanently deleting it.

Suppose you’re selected as a Legacy Contact and don’t have the access key. In that case, you can ask Apple to delete the decedent’s account or request access by providing a court order or other legal documentation.

The purpose of Digital Legacy is to save your loved ones the inconvenience that comes with getting a court order.

Legacy Contacts are not to be confused with Recovery Contacts, who are people you select to help regain access to your Apple ID if you’re locked out. Recovery Contacts won’t get any access to your data.

Digital Legacy Availability

Digital Legacy is free, easy to set up, and available to all iCloud users. The only requirement is to have at least iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, and macOS 12.1 installed on all your devices. So ensure you update your software to the latest version available.

For an iPhone or iPad, go to Settings > General > Software Update and check if there’s an update. On a Mac, our complete guide to updating macOS should come in handy.

iPhone 13 Pro Max display

If you’re someone’s Legacy Contact, you can’t access all their data. Some types of data are unique to one person and, hence, not transferrable. Data that is available to a Legacy Contact includes the following:

  • iCloud Photos
  • Notes
  • Mail
  • Contacts
  • Calendars
  • Reminders
  • Messages in iCloud
  • Call History
  • Files in iCloud Drive
  • Health Data
  • Voice Memos
  • Safari Bookmarks and Reading List
  • iCloud Backup

However, this data will only be available through Digital Legacy if the original owner stored it in iCloud. If they used a third-party service instead, for example, to store their photos, they won’t be available in their iCloud account.

Data that is not accessible to a Legacy Contact includes any licensed media that the decedent bought, like books, movies and music, in-app purchases, payment information, and data stored in Keychain. That means you can’t pass down your digital movie, music, or book collection when you die.

Related: What Is iCloud Keychain? Why It’s Useful and How to Use It

Easily Pass Down Your Data With Apple’s Digital Legacy Program

Your Digital Legacy can include your photos, emails, messages, notes, and more. This information will only continue to grow as we move more of our data online. Ensuring that your data gets handed over to your loved ones when you die is important. If you have an Apple Device, you should embrace Digital Legacy to do so.

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