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 be looking to gain access to your loved one’s phone, computer, or tablet to recover personal data. Whether you’re looking for photos, passwords, or other information, it’s frustrating when you don’t know a password to simply access it.

I’ve put together the steps you need to take to unlock an Apple device if its owner passes away.

This first step will only work if the last owner of the device iCloud data backup. While it’s easy to turn on automatic backups, sometimes Apple users forget to do so and photos and data may only be on one phone, tablet, or computer.

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

If you have access to an iCloud sign-in and they backed up your information, you may be able to access a lot of data, including photos, through Check if any of the owner’s devices sign in to iCloud automatically, and if not, follow the steps below.

Using to access data

Go to on a different device. It is better to do this on a computer.

Sign in with the owner’s Apple ID.

If you sign in successfully, you may be able to access the user’s mail, contacts, calendar, photos, cloud drive, notes, reminders, and some other apps if they used them.

You can download photos directly from

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

A man holding and using a smartphone.
You can download photos directly from
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Use an email to access data from iPhone, iPad, Mac

Go to on a different device; it is better 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 receive the email with instructions on how to reset an iCloud account.

Once you have the new sign in, use it at to sign in and follow the steps above to use an iCloud account to access your data.

people on the smartphone.
You can set up a legacy contact on your devices in case of unexpected death.
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Did the device owner have a legacy contact?

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

If your deceased loved one set up a legacy contact, visit Apple Digital Legacy to request access.

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

How to request access to a device without signing in to iCloud

If none of the steps above worked and you want to request access from Apple to access your deceased loved one’s iCloud login, 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 declining account.

That the decadent was the user of all the accounts associated with the Apple ID.

That the applicant is the legal representative, agent or heir of the declining party whose authorization constitutes “legitimate consent”.

The court then orders Apple to assist in providing access to the decedent’s information from the deceased person’s accounts. The court order must be addressed to the relevant Apple entity.

You can also try visiting an Apple Store or contacting Apple Support for alternative options.

How to make sure your loved ones can access your data

In the event of an emergency or death, you’ll want to be sure that your loved ones can still access your data. Make sure a trusted loved one has your login information and/or passwords written down in a safe and secure place. That way, they can still access their photos and other apps on the phone without having to go through a court order or complicated reset process.

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

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

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