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How to unlock an Apple device when its owner dies

How to unlock an Apple device when its owner dies

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If you’ve recently lost a friend or family member, you may want to access your loved one’s phone, computer, or tablet to retrieve personal data left behind. Whether you’re looking for photos, passwords, or other information, it’s frustrating when you don’t know the password to access it.

I have put together the steps you need to follow to unlock an Apple device if its owner dies.

A man holds an iPhone in his hand in December 2022 in Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Rottweil.
(Silas Stein/Photo Alliance via Getty Images)

How to unlock iPhone, iPad or Mac without passcode

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This first step will only work if the last owner of the device data backed up in iCloud. While it’s easy to turn on automatic backups, sometimes apple users forget to do this and photos and data can only be stored on a phone, tablet or computer.

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

If you have access to iCloud login information and have backed up your information, you may be able to access a lot of data, including photos, through iCloud.com. Check if any of the owner’s devices are signed into iCloud automatically, and if not, follow the steps below.

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Using iCloud.com to access data

Go to iCloud.com on another device. It’s best to do this on a computer

Sign in using The owner’s Apple ID

If you successfully log in, you will likely have access to the user’s mail, contacts, calendar, photos, cloud drive, notes, reminders, and several other applications if they have used them

You can download photos directly from iCloud.com

If you don’t have access to the Apple ID, but you do have access to the user’s email, check to see if their login was automatically saved on one of their devices, such as another computer or tablet

Woman using smartphone at desk.

Woman using smartphone at desk.
(iStock)

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Use email to access iPhone, iPad, Mac data

Go to iCloud.com on another device; it’s best to do this on a computer

Click Forgot your Apple ID or password?

Use the user’s iCloud email address to reset the password

Open the user’s email account and you should see the email with iCloud account reset instructions

Once you have the new sign-in name, use it on iCloud.com to sign in and follow the steps above to use an iCloud account to access data

Did the device owner have a legacy contact?

Many Apple users may not know that you can set up a legacy contact on your devices in case of unexpected death. If the device owner has set up a legacy contact, accessing this data should be very easy. Legacy contacts are available on iOS 15.2, iPadOS 15.2, or macOS 12.1 or later.

If your deceased loved one has created a legacy contact, visit Apple’s Digital Legacy to request access.

A guest holds a new iPhone 14 at an Apple event at the headquarters in Cupertino, California, September 7, 2022.

A guest holds a new iPhone 14 at an Apple event at the headquarters in Cupertino, California, September 7, 2022.
(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

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Pro tip for Apple users: Set up a legacy contact if you haven’t already.

How to claim access to a device without signing into iCloud

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

You will 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 requesting access to the decedent’s account

That the successor was a user of all accounts associated with the Apple ID

That the applicant is a legal personal representative, agent or successor of the testator whose authorization constitutes “legal consent”

iPhone 6s Plus at an Apple Store in Palo Alto, California, September 25, 2015.

iPhone 6s Plus at an Apple Store in Palo Alto, California, September 25, 2015.
(REUTERS/Robert Galbraith)

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Apple is then ordered by the court to assist in providing access to the deceased person’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 contacting Apple Support to see alternative options.

How to ensure that your loved ones have access to your data

In the event of an emergency or death, you want to make sure your loved ones still have access to your data. Make sure a trusted loved one has saved your login details and/or passwords in a safe and secure place. That way, they still have access to your photos and other phone apps without having to go through a court order or complicated reset process.

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If your phone carrier offers a legacy contact option, set it up now.

If you use social media, platforms like Facebook offer an option to tag someone as yours inherited contact.


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