Securing Your Legacy: Embracing Digital Estate Planning with iOS Legacy Contact

January 4, 2024

Understanding Estate Planning Misconceptions

There’s a misconception that estate planning is mainly for the wealthy or those concerned with asset protection. In reality, estate planning serves the practical purpose of ensuring that an individual’s assets are distributed according to their wishes, without unnecessary delay or expense, regardless of their value. For the vast majority, the goal of estate planning is to avoid probate and to make the administration of their estate as easy as possible.

Another common misunderstanding is that estate planning solely revolves around the creation of specific documents, such as wills or trusts. Often, estate planning attorneys encounter clients who insist on these documents without fully understanding their own objectives or how these fit into their broader circumstances. It’s critical to assess if the document in question is truly the right and most efficient means for one’s specific estate planning goals.

The Essence of Estate Planning: Anticipation and Preparation

Estate planning fundamentally revolves around proactive anticipation, strategic preparation, and detailed organization. Though documents are essential tools for this preparation and organization, they are not the end goal themselves. The real purpose of estate planning is to ease the transition for loved ones after you’re gone. To this end, a range of tools, beyond just paper documents, are available and should be considered to comprehensively address the diverse aspects of an individual’s legacy, including the often-overlooked digital presence.

The Digital Aspect of Estate Planning

Even though our lives are increasingly online, many still underestimate the need to anticipate, prepare, and organize these digital assets effectively as part of their estate plan. Digital assets, from social media accounts to digital libraries and online financial accounts, are a critical part of this planning, reflecting our digital footprints and the legacy we leave behind. Addressing these in your estate plan ensures every part of your legacy is safe.

iOS Legacy Contact Feature

The iOS Legacy Contact feature plays a significant role in modern estate planning and directly addresses this oversight. This feature allows you to designate someone to access your Apple account data after your death. This person can access photos, messages, notes, and other data stored in your iCloud account but not information like your stored passwords or payment information (unless also saved as a message or note). It ensures that increasingly ubiquitous digital assets are not lost or inaccessible after death.

Here’s how the Legacy Contact feature is helpful in estate planning:

1.) Anticipation: Most people have a significant amount of personal and sentimental data stored digitally, such as photos, messages, or notes. By setting up a Legacy Contact, you anticipate the need for loved ones to access these digital memories and take proactive steps to enable this.

2.) Preparation: Part of effective estate planning is preparing for eventualities. By choosing a Legacy Contact, you are preparing for the smooth transition of your digital legacy, which is becoming as important as physical and financial assets.

3.) Organization: A key element of easing the estate administration process is organization. The Legacy Contact feature helps organize your digital estate, making it straightforward for your executor, trustee, or family members to access important digital assets without the need to search through various accounts or guess passwords.

Setting up a Legacy Contact in iOS

The Legacy Contact feature is a modern tool in the estate planner’s toolkit, addressing the increasingly important digital aspect of our lives. It ensures that your digital assets are taken care of in an organized, prepared, and anticipatory manner, which aligns perfectly with the broader goals of estate planning.

To set up a legacy contact in iOS, follow these steps:

  1. Open the Settings app on your iPhone.
  2. Tap on your Apple ID at the top.
  3. Select “Password & Security.”
  4. Tap on “Legacy Contact.”
  5. Follow the prompts to add a legacy contact. You may need to enter the contact’s phone number or email address.
  6. Apple will send an access key to your chosen contact. This key is necessary for them to access your account after your death.

Your legacy contact will need this key and a death certificate to access your data. Remember to inform your chosen contact about their role and the importance of the access key.

Embracing the Digital Legacy

Embracing the iOS Legacy Contact feature reflects prudent estate planning and demonstrates a forward-thinking approach to the realities of our digital lives. By taking these steps, individuals can rest assured that they have left a comprehensive plan that respects their digital presence and honors their final wishes. Ultimately, the Legacy Contact becomes a guardian of one’s digital legacy, entrusted with the responsibility to preserve and pass on a person’s online life, which is as meaningful today as any physical heirloom. With the incorporation of the Legacy Contact, estate planning can now extend beyond the tangible, capturing the full scope of what we value.

To discuss further, please contact KJK Estate, Wealth & Succession planning attorney Gregory Williams (GLW@kjk.com; 614.427.5746).