Estate Planning

Unlock iPhone When Someone Dies (5 Things To Try)

Larry Li


When a loved one passes away, you may need to access crucial information kept on the deceased one’s iPhone.

But can you unlock an iPhone when someone dies?

If the iPhone is locked, it is nearly impossible to unlock iPhone since Apple doesn’t even have the password. Apple takes account holder privacy very seriously and will likely deny your request to unlock the iPhone. However, you may be able to access your loved one’s iCloud account if you have their login information.

There are many reasons why you’d want to unlock someone’s iPhone when they pass away. From cherishable videos and photos to important documents and files, people store a lot of data on their iPhones.

Unfortunately, you’ll learn in this guide that unlocking the iPhone is a difficult task. Nonetheless, I’ll share five things to try to unlock the iPhone and get access to the phone’s contents.

In today’s in-depth guide, you’ll learn:

  • If you can unlock an iPhone when the owner dies

  • 5 methods for unlocking an iPhone when someone dies

  • How to plan ahead for unlocked a deceased person’s iPhone

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Can You Unlock an iPhone When The Owner Dies? 

Unless your loved one left their iPhone’s password behind, unlocking the device is essentially out of the question. As I mentioned earlier, Apple is vigorous about its account holder privacy. At best, Apple can restore the phone, which erases all the phone’s data but allows somebody else to use the phone.

People always leave something behind on their iPhones when they pass away. As our devices become progressively more intertwined with our daily lives, they also become something to consider when someone dies. Our iPhones hold our digital legacy and years of photos, messages, contacts, and more.

In Apple’s official statement about how to request access to a deceased member’s Apple account, it states: 

“Please note that devices locked with a passcode are protected by passcode encryption, and Apple can’t help remove the passcode lock without erasing the device.”

As you can see, even Apple can’t help you unlock an iPhone when someone dies. Apple can only restore the phone to a clean slate, which erases all of your loved one’s data. 

Furthermore, Apple’s official position on unlocking iPhones is that doing so is a violation of civil liberties. There was a standoff between the US government and Apple after the San Bernandino shooting in 2016. 

The FBI wanted to gain access to the shooter’s iPhone, but Apple wouldn’t give access because Apple believed that creating a back door into the phone would weaken Apple’s security measures. 

However, even though you can’t unlock the iPhone, you can try accessing your loved one’s iCloud account or request access to the deceased person’s Apple ID and data with a court order.

Let’s discuss 5 methods for accessing a deceased loved one’s iPhone and Apple data. 

5 Methods For Unlocking An iPhone When Someone Dies 

Although unlocking an iPhone when someone dies is a tall task, there are a few strategies you can try to get access to your loved one’s information.

Here are five ways of recovering the information on your deceased loved one’s iPhone. 

1. Recover Data Through iCloud

If you have the login credentials for your loved one’s iCloud account or have access to their iCloud email address, you may be able to recover a large amount of data. However, this depends on if your loved one used this service. Luckily, most iPhone users have an iCloud account synced with their iPhone.

However, you’ll need to have access to your loved one’s iCloud account or email. If you know your loved one’s iCloud username and password, you can simply log in and view all the data synced from their iPhone.

If you don’t know your loved one’s iCloud information but have access to their email, you can reset the password.

Here’s how to recover your loved one’s iCloud account:

  1. Go to iCloud.com

  2. Select the Forgot Apple ID or password? Option

  3. Use the iCloud email address to reset the iCloud password

  4. Check your loved one’s email for a link to reset the password

If you don’t know your loved one’s iCloud details or email information, you won’t be able to access their iPhone data easily. However, move on to strategy number two because you still have a chance to recover your loved one’s data.

2. Contact Apple Support

As I mentioned previously, Apple is notoriously strict regarding password recovery and helping people unlock a deceased relative’s iPhone. Nonetheless, you can reach out to Apple Support for assistance as a last resort. However, keep in mind that this process may be frustrating as Apple is stern in their account holder privacy. 

Apple is limited in how it can help you. The company has no built-in backdoor into its software for unlocking iPhones. However, Apple can provide access to backed-up data if your loved one synced their data to the Apple iCloud. 

In the United States and other locales, you can request access to your deceased loved one’s Apple ID and data with a court order. The court order needs to claim you as the rightful inheritor of your relative’s personal information.

If you reside in other jurisdictions, including Germany, New Zealand, France, Japan, and Australia, Apple accepts alternative documentation and process instead of the court order.

When applicable, the court order must describe:

  • The name and Apple ID of your loved one

  • The name of the next of kin who is requesting access to the account

  • That the descendant was the user of all accounts associated with the Apple ID

  • That the requestor (you) is the deceased one’s legal representative, heir, or agent, whose automatization constitutes “lawful consent”

  • That Apple is ordered by the court to help in the provision of access to the deceased one’s information from their accounts

  • The court order must be addressed to the relevant Apple entity

In addition, Apple needs several documents, including:

  • A certified copy of the deceased one’s death certificate

  • Proof of your executorship

  • Proof of your identity

  • The court order mentioned above

Apple won’t be able to help you without a court order and these additional documents. If you reside in a state that doesn’t require probate, or you’re distributing assets with a small estate affidavit, you still must petition the courts to provide you with a statement of release for your relative’s data. 

If Apple approves the court order, Apple will transfer your loved one’s Apple ID to you. Although this doesn’t unlock their iPhone, you can set up another iPhone with their details and recover anything your loved one saved in iCloud.

3. Check Password Managers and Docs

Your deceased loved one may have stored their iPhone password in a password manager or password document. 

Therefore, you should check to see if your loved one used a password manager. However, this requires getting access to their computer, which may be another difficult challenge if their computer is locked and you don’t know the password.

If you can access your loved one’s computer, open their internet browser and check for password manager extensions such as LastPass, 1Password, Bitwarden, and Dashlane. You should also search for these programs in the computer files since they might not have used a browser extension.

Check to see if your loved one kept their iPhone password stored in a password manager. If not, you can check if your loved one had a document on their computer or Google Drive with their passwords. For example, they may have stored their iPhone password in one of these documents.

Lastly, you can check if your loved one kept any notebooks or sheets of paper with their passwords written down. 

4. Try Relevant Passwords

Sometimes, a person's iPhone password is more straightforward and obvious than you’d think. In essence, people can be very predictable. Therefore, I recommend trying a few passwords to see if you can quickly gain access to your loved one’s iPhone.

Try a birthday, a sentimental number, a parent’s birthday, anniversary, or any date that you think would be important to your loved one. You can even try simple passwords like “0000”, “5555”, or “1234”.

Although this may seem unpragmatic, you never know what password your loved one is using, and gaining access to their phone this way avoids the headache of contacting Apple support and attaining a court order.

The sad truth is that you probably won’t ever gain access to your loved one’s iPhone. However, in the best case scenario, you can recover your loved one’s iCloud data and download it onto your iPhone or computer.

At worst, Apple can restore the phone but will delete all the data in the process. Therefore, all of your loved one’s data and information is permanently gone, but you can use or sell the iPhone. 

5. Sync the iPhone to a Computer

If your loved one synced their iPhone to their computer in the past, you might be able to access the phone’s data without the passcode. During the initial setup to sync the iPhone to a computer, your loved one would have completed two tasks:

  1. Entered a passcode to verify the computer

  2. Marked the computer as a trusted device

If your loved one marked the iPhone as a trusted device, the computer remains a trusted device until access is removed. Then, when you connect the iPhone to the same computer, the passcode isn’t required since the computer is already trusted. Therefore, syncing can automatically occur when the phone is reconnected to the computer.

So, connect the iPhone to the computer and see if you can access any data on the phone. This includes data such as pictures, music, videos, and other types of files. This effectively bypasses the iPhone unlock and is a strategy to get access to your loved one’s data.

However, it’s important to remember this method doesn’t actually unlock the iPhone. Instead, you can only access the data synced onto the computer.

How To Plan Ahead For Unlocking A Deceased Person's iPhone?

Obtaining data from a password-locked phone is challenging. The best way to navigate this situation is to implement preventative measures and plan ahead before unexpected deaths do occur.

The best way to plan for the future is to use a secure online storage platform like Trustworthy. Trustworthy is an innovative cloud-based storage solution designed to store sensitive information. 

With Trustworthy, you can safely store family IDs, bank account information, property documents, tax files, and much more. Furthermore, you can save passwords such as iPhone and iCloud passwords.

However, Trustworthy isn’t just a storage center. You can use Trustworthy to share your information with trusted loved ones safely. Unique access levels are granted to each individual with your permission, therefore your accountant can have access to only your financial tab while your partner can have access to family IDs, property, and passwords. Permission access levels can be edited or revoked at any time. 

For temporary sharing, Trustworthy’s secure links offer the perfect solution. With secure links, you can send a viewing link that has a set expiration time. You can also see  whether your information has been accessed and automatically revoke access after a certain amount of time has passed.  Learn more about secure links.

Let’s discuss how you can use Trustworthy to share an iPhone password. Once you sign-up for Trustworthy, you will be taken to the main Trustworthy dashboard. The dashboard has built-in sections to store different types of information.

If you click ‘Passwords’ on the left-hand column, you’ll be taken to the section where you can store and share your passwords.

To add a new password, click ‘Add more +.

Once you create the password, it will appear in your Trustworthy dashboard's ‘Passwords’ section.

Then, you can click on the card to modify your password if you change it in the future. You can also set reminders to update your password after a certain amount of time passes by.

The reason Trustworthy is the most effective way to store and share sensitive information like iPhone passwords is because of its security. Trustworthy offers bank-level encryption in order to keep your information safe and includes other security certifications like SOC 2, HIPAA Compliance, McAfee TrustedSite Certified Secure, and Norton Secured by Verisign. Learn more about Trustworthy’s security measures. 

This means that cyber attackers cannot access the information you store within Trustworthy. Storage options like OneDrive and Google Drive are great for storing regular files without confidential information. 

Trustworthy is dedicated to keeping your sensitive information out of reach for hackers and cybercriminals. Furthermore, Trustworthy’s secure collaboration features mean you can safely send your stored files to trusted loved ones.

Trustworthy eliminates the pain of unlocking a loved one’s iPhone after they pass away because their password will already be stored on Trustworthy’s secure storage platform. Try out Trustworthy for free and get 20% off if you subscribe within 24 hours of starting your free trial! 

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