Apple users can now set heirs for their iCloud data

As a rule, people do not like to talk about death. However, it is important to clarify in advance what should happen to one’s inheritance – even digitally. Apple is currently testing the so-called “estate contact” for this purpose.

When a person dies, survivors often have no way to access the deceased’s digital data. Photos, videos, e-mails and other documents stored in the cloud are protected by a password that is often only known to the deceased. Apple wants to change this and is planning a new feature for iOS 15.2 that will allow users to specify one or more people as an estate contact.

Estate contacts get access to iCloud data and Apple devices

In the event of the death of the Apple user, the relevant persons will then have access to the data stored in the iCloud. They can also remove the activation lock on the iPhone, iPad or MacBook. This has so far prevented the devices from being reset without knowledge of the Apple ID.

In order to access the data and unlock the Apple devices, however, the estate contacts must submit a death certificate to Apple. They therefore do not need a password after the corresponding release, and the two-factor authentication as a safeguard also no longer applies.

The change in case of death is an important and long overdue step. Until now, iCloud content and the Apple ID of the deceased could only be deleted after death. Apple excludes a “right of the survivor” to data in the iCloud. Exactly, it says in the legal conditions:

“Except as permitted under Digital Legacy, and unless otherwise required by law, you agree that your account is non-transferable and that all rights to your Apple ID or content within your account terminate upon your death. Upon receipt of a copy of your death certificate, your account may be terminated and all content within your account deleted.”

iCloud Legal Department, accessed November 12, 2021.

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Heirs don’t get full access

However, a user’s designated heirs will not be granted access to all data. For example, Apple continues to lock all passwords stored in the keychain and payment information stored for Apple Pay for the estate contacts.

Apple had already announced the introduction of an estate contact in the summer. With the update to iOS 15.2, the manufacturer now wants to introduce the function. Beta testers can already try it out, as “Heise” reports.


  • Heise
  • Apple iCloud