How to unlock an Apple device when the owner passes away

How to unlock an Apple device when the owner passes away

After a love one leaves us, their memories and technology remain: how to regain access to their phone or computer

by Nora Hogan

If you have recently lost a friend or family member, you may be looking to gain access to their phone, computer, or tablet in order to get their personal data left behind. Whether you’re looking for photos, passwords, or other information, it’s frustrating when you don’t know their passcode to simply access it.

We’ve gathered the steps you should follow to unlock a device if the owner passes away.

Click here for instructions on how to unlock an Android or PC device if the owner passes away.

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How to unlock a device if the owner passes away

How to unlock an iPhone, iPad, or Mac without the passcode

This first step will only work if the device’s late owner backed up their data to iCloud. While it’s easy to turn on automatic backups, sometimes Apple users forget to do this and their photos and data may only live on their phone, tablet, or computer.

If you don’t know the owner’s passcode or password, check to see if you have their iCloud login. An iCloud login uses their email, so try their common passwords or see if they left a list of passwords.

If you have access to their iCloud login, and they backed up their information, you may be able to access a lot of their data including Photos via iCloud.com. Check if any of the owner’s devices login to iCloud automatically, and if not, follow the steps below.

Using iCloud.com to access data

  • Go to iCloud.com on a different device, it’s best to do this on a computer
  • Log in using the owner’s Apple ID
  • If you successfully log in, you’ll likely be able to access the user’s Mail, Contacts, Calendar, Photos, Cloud Drive, Notes, Reminders, and a few other apps if they used them
  • You can download photos directly from iCloud.com

 

If you don’t have access to their Apple ID but have access to the user’s email (check if their log in was auto-saved on any of their devices like another computer or tablet):

Using an email to access iPhone, iPad, Mac data

  • Go to iCloud.com on a different device, it’s best to do this on a computer
  • Click Forgotten your Apple ID or Password?
  • Use their iCloud email address to reset the password
  • Open their email account and you should see the email with instructions on resetting their iCloud account
  • Once you have the new login, use it on iCloud.com to log in and follow the steps above for using an iCloud account to access data

 

Did the device’s owner have a Legacy Contact?

Many Apple users may not know you can set up a Legacy Contact on your devices in case of unexpected death. If the device’s owner did set up a Legacy Contact, it should be very easy to access their data. Legacy Contacts are available on iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS 12.1 or later.

If your late loved one did set up a Legacy Contact, visit Apple’s Digital Legacy to request access here.

Pro-tip for Apple users: Set up a Legacy Contact if you haven’t already by following the steps here.

 

How to request access to a device without iCloud login

If none of the above steps worked and you’d like to request access from Apple to have access to your deceased loved one’s iCloud login, a court order may be required.

You’ll need to provide the following information in the court order:

  • The name and Apple ID of the deceased person
  • The name of the next of kin who is requesting access to the decedent’s account
  • That the decedent was the user of all accounts associated with the Apple ID
  • That the requestor is the decedent’s legal personal representative, agent, or heir, whose authorization constitutes “lawful consent”
  • That Apple is ordered by the court to assist in the provision of access to the decedent’s information from the deceased person’s accounts. The court order should be addressed to the relevant Apple entity

You can also try visiting an Apple Store or contact Apple Support to see alternative options.

 

How to ensure loved ones can access your data

In case of an emergency or death, you want to be sure your loved ones can still access your data. Make sure one trusted love one has your login information and/or passwords written down in a safe, protected location. That way they can still access your photos and other phone apps without having to go through a court-order or complicated reset process.

If your phone provider offers a legacy contact option, set that up now.

If you use social media, platforms like Facebook offer an option to name someone as your Legacy Contact.

 

Click here for instructions on how to unlock an Android or PC device if the owner passes away.

Let us know your tech questions and comment below.

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