Think Your Estate Plans Are in Order? Have You Considered Your iPhones?

In the past decade, it has become far more common for individuals to consider online accounts and their content in estate plans. The question then becomes, what about their cellphones? Because these devices can contain a lot of financial and other sensitive information, it’s important that a trusted individual have access to that material when a person dies — and that there is a plan for how it will be addressed.

Even being buried with a cellphone — an increasingly common preference — will not impact the data on them. Why? Because that data is almost always being synched to cloud-based storage. This is especially true of smartphones, which function more like mini-computers than phones.

Furthermore, many people may have important details, such as log-ins to other accounts, stored on their phones (and in the cloud). Fortunately for those who do not have their plans in order, the major phone manufacturers have already worked it out. The most recent to jump on the estate planning bandwagon is Apple.

The firm recently added a new Legacy Contact setting that is available with  iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS 12.1 operating systems or later.  It enables device users to specify who can access their Apple iCloud information — photos, notes, mail and more— after they die.

By default, gaining access requires a compatible device. However, to simplify things in the event the deceased’s loved ones do not have an Apple device, the firm allows users to print a copy of their access key and share it. The Legacy Contact will need the access key and their loved one’s death certificate to gain access to the Apple account data.

From there, the Legacy Contact visits to provide contact information, input the access key, and upload the death certificate. Apple staff then reviews/accepts the request and provides access. Once access is approved, the Legacy Contact receives a special Apple ID that he or she can set up and use to access the account. This process removes the Activation Lock on any devices associated with that Apple ID.

Apple allows up to five Legacy Contacts per account. For three years from the time the first Legacy Account request is approved, any of them can individually make decisions about the data after the account owner’s death, including deleting it. After that time, the account will be permanently deleted.

To discuss other estate planning issues, please call us at (678) 720-0750 or e-mail us at to schedule a consultation. We can discuss your situation, answer your questions and determine what might be the best fit for you. We look forward to meeting with you.

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