Set up a Legacy Contact on Mac to ensure your data lives on

Apple's Digital Legacy program helps you pass down information to family members or friends. Thinking about your own mortality or a loved one passing away may be bleak but it's important that you do. While traditional estate planning tends to be something we think about later in life and concerns mainly physical assets, it's prudent to think about what would happen to your digital information should the worst happen. Apple Legacy Contacts: What is Digital Legacy? Add a Legacy Contact on Mac Remove a Legacy Contact on Mac So much of our lives is lived in digital form these days, so it's imperative that surviving family members can access the data and information of those no longer around. Once someone is no longer able to input their own password, their data could be lost for good. With its Digital Legacy program, Apple is aiming to solve this problem, in part, by allowing users to declare Legacy Contacts that can gain access to data stored in their Apple account in the eve...

Set up a Legacy Contact on Mac to ensure your data lives on

Apple's Digital Legacy program helps you pass down information to family members or friends.

Thinking about your own mortality or a loved one passing away may be bleak but it's important that you do. While traditional estate planning tends to be something we think about later in life and concerns mainly physical assets, it's prudent to think about what would happen to your digital information should the worst happen.

So much of our lives is lived in digital form these days, so it's imperative that surviving family members can access the data and information of those no longer around. Once someone is no longer able to input their own password, their data could be lost for good.

With its Digital Legacy program, Apple is aiming to solve this problem, in part, by allowing users to declare Legacy Contacts that can gain access to data stored in their Apple account in the event of their death.

What is Apple's Digital Legacy program?

Announced in 2021, Apple's Digital Legacy program is an official way to allow access to information stored in your Apple account after you die.

Here's how Mike Abbott, VP of Apple Cloud Services, put it when announcing the upcoming feature at WWDC:

"We don't often think about it, but it's important that we can easily pass down information to family members or friends when we pass away. So you'll now be able to add people to your account as Legacy Contacts. So when you're gone, they can request access, and your information can be passed along quickly and easily."

Think about all of the information and data you have stored away in digital form, including photos, messages, contacts, email, notes, and more. For Apple users, that info is locked away behind an Apple ID password. If the account owner, rightly, hasn't shared the password then loved ones will be unable to access any of that information once they are no longer around.

Instead of being left in the lurch, Digital Legacy allows users to name select friends or family members as Legacy Contacts who can request a copy of their data in the event of their death.

How to add a Legacy Contact on Mac

As well as setting up Legacy Contacts on iPhone, you can also add some family members or friends via your Mac. Here's how to do it on your Mac running macOS Monterey 12.1 or later.

  1. Click the icon in your menu bar.
  2. Click on System Preferences.

  3. Click on Apple ID.
  4. Click on Password & Security.

  5. Click on the Manage... button beside Legacy Contacts.
  6. Click on Add.

  7. Click on Add Legacy Contact.
  8. If you use Family Sharing, you'll be presented with a list of family members from which to pick. Click their name and click Add or click Choose Someone Else to find a contact.

  9. Click Continue.
  10. Choose how you wish to share your Legacy Contact's Access Key with them by clicking Send a Message or Print a Copy and then clicking Continue.

If you have a Mac password set, you'll need to enter this along the way in order to add a Legacy Contact.

You can send your Legacy Contact's Access Key over iMessage and — if the recipient is using iOS 15.2 or macOS Monterey 12.1 or later — they will be able to automatically store a copy of this access key in their Apple ID settings. If they are running an older version of the software, they'll be prompted to update.

Alternatively, you can print a copy of the access key to hand it over in physical form.

How to remove a Legacy Contact on Mac

It's just as simple to remove a Legacy Contact as it is to add one on Mac. Here's how to do it.

  1. Click the icon in your menu bar.
  2. Click on System Preferences.

  3. Click on Apple ID.
  4. Click on Password & Security.

  5. Click on the Manage... button beside Legacy Contacts.
  6. Click on the Details... next to the Legacy Contact you'd like to remove.

  7. Click Remove Contact.
  8. Confirm by clicking Remove Contact again.

You may be required to enter your Mac password in order to complete the process.

The contact won't be notified that you removed them, though you will no longer appear in their Legacy Contact list if they have an Apple device that includes that setting. The access key they received when being added will no longer work.

Prudent thinking

We know that no one will be around forever so it's a good idea to set up some Legacy Contacts so that your trusted family members and friends can access your important information.

It's easy to empathize with the surviving loved ones in cases where access information becomes difficult in the event of a death with precious photos, important notes and contacts, and much more being lost.

Apple's Digital Legacy feature is the best Mac implementation we've seen for this sort of information sharing. Once you've set it up, you can check one thing off your list of things to worry about. It doesn't fix all of the problems inherent with estate planning, but it's a good starting point.