iOS 15.2: How to ensure family can access your iCloud data when you die

Apple's new feature allows you to designate a friend or family member as a Legacy Contact.
Written by Jason Cipriani, Contributing Writer
Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

Eventually, all of us will have to deal with a loved one's belongings after they die. Figuring out how to handle finances and estates should -- hopefully -- be a straightforward process. But what do you do about digital belongings, such as the data stored in someone's iPhone or iCloud account? 

Until now, there hasn't been an easy way to gain access to a loved one's account after they pass away. But with the release of iOS 15.2, Apple has added a feature that allows you to designate a friend or family member as a Legacy Contact. 

Should something happen to you in the future, your Legacy Contact(s) can easily access your account data, recovering your photos, notes, and similar items. Here's how you can set up Apple's new Legacy Contact feature on your iPhone. 

How to install iOS 15.2

Before you can add a Legacy Contact, you'll need to install iOS 15.2 on your iPhone. The update is available right now, and you can download it by opening the Settings app and then going to GeneralSoftware Update and following the prompts. 

It's a good idea to back up your iPhone before installing a new update; you can do that in Settings by tapping on your name at the top of the page, followed by iCloud > iCloud Backup > Back Up Now

Once that's done, you can go through the update process. 

How to assign your Legacy Contact

Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/ZDNet

With your iPhone updated, you can now access the Legacy Contact feature. Start by opening the Settings app, selecting your name at the top of the screen, followed by Password & Security. Towards the bottom of the screen will be Legacy Contact; select it followed by Add Legacy Contact. The process from here is simple: just follow the prompts. You'll be informed about what a Legacy Contact can do and what they'll need before they can access your account data (an account recovery key plus a death certificate). 

If you have a Family Share group set up, Apple will recommend selecting someone from that group. But you can opt to select a different contact if you prefer. 

The last step of the process asks if you want to alert the contact over iMessage, or if you'd rather print out a copy of your recovery key. I opted to send my wife a message letting her know she is now a legacy contact, and to my surprise, the message states that the recovery key is now linked to and stored within her iCloud account. That means you won't have to worry about your contact losing the recovery key and losing access to your account. Pretty nice. 

Are you planning on setting up iOS 15.2's Legacy Contact feature? Let us know in the comments below.

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