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Apple to grant access to deceased loved ones’ accounts through new Digital Legacy feature

2 min read

Apple has introduced a new feature allowing a nominated person to access someone’s Apple account in the event of their death for the first time.

Users and campaigners have lobbied the tech giant for years to introduce a formalised way of accessing emails, pictures and other contents of a loved one’s iCloud account after their death.

Until now, the company required both a grant of probate and a court order to access a deceased person’s account, and has advised its customers to add an inheritance plan to their will covering the personal information they store on their devices and in iCloud.

“This may simplify the process of acquiring a proper court order and reduce delay and frustration for family members during a difficult time,” the company advises on its website.

The new feature allows a trusted person access to some but not all elements of a person’s Apple accounts (Photo: Apple)

“We have great sympathy for surviving family members. Once the court order is received, we will help as much as possible to grant access to the personal information or devices you are requesting. Please note that devices locked with a passcode are protected by passcode encryption, and unless the next of kin knows the device passcode, Apple will not be able to remove the passcode lock on the device without erasing it.” 

The new feature is not the same as gaining access to a passcode-locked device, which Apple is unable to provide as the company does not possess a copy of the passcode or the ability to override it.

“We don’t often think about it, but it’s important that we can easily pass down information to family members or friends if we pass away,” said Mike Abbott, vice president of Apple Cloud Services.

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“You’ll now be able to add people to your account as legacy contacts so when you’re gone, they can simply request access and your information can be passed along quickly and easily.”

Under the update, users will need to provide a copy of the deceased’s death certificate and an access key to gain access to the information. Payment information, subscriptions, licensed media and Keychain password data will not be included.

The new Digital Legacy feature was announced during Apple’s annual software conference WWDC, which contained new updates for the iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple TV and Apple Watch.

Other major changes include the ability to schedule FaceTime video calls as you would on Zoom or Microsoft Teams, using a single mouse and keyboard between an iPad and a Mac and a new ‘Mindfulness’ app for Apple Watch.

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