How to Recover an Apple ID for You or a Deceased Loved One

Updated

Losing your Apple ID can be a major hassle. After all, it’s the account you use to log into all of your Apple services and devices. 

And if your departed loved one was an Apple user, you’ll probably need their Apple ID to access their data. But tracking down or resetting a loved one’s Apple ID can be even trickier than recovering your own. 

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Luckily, there are a few different ways to recover an Apple ID, yours or a loved one’s. Below, we’ll walk you through the process of recovering a deceased loved one’s Apple ID, as well as resetting or recovering your own. 

How to Recover a Deceased Loved One’s Apple ID

To get into a loved one’s Apple phone or tablet, you’ll need that person’s Apple ID. Retrieving the data from an Apple computer is sometimes easier because you can remove the computer’s hard drive and read it using another Mac or a PC. 

If you don’t want to go through that process, though, you can use the person’s Apple ID to log in to their computer, too. 

And luckily, Apple Support understands that family members often need to access their deceased loved ones’ devices. If you need to recover a deceased loved one’s Apple ID, here’s what you should do. 

Search for passwords and IDs

Before you attempt to reset or recover your loved one’s Apple ID, see if you can find that information in their documents or or other devices. Look for a list of passwords or a password manager on any open devices like phones, tablets, and computers. 

Log into their email account

If you don’t know the person’s Apple ID, but you do know their email account and password, you can reset their Apple ID and password. You’ll just need to go to the Apple ID account page, click “Forgot Apple ID or Password,” and then enter their email address in the text box. 

If that email address isn’t the correct Apple ID, click, “look it up” underneath the text box. Then, you’ll enter your loved one’s name and email address to start the reset process. 

You may have to go through additional steps that include answering security steps or receiving a code at your loved one’s phone number. 

Request access from Apple Support

If you don’t have the information needed for the options above, you’ll need to contact Apple Support to request a transfer of ownership of the account to you.  

Apple Support might ask for a copy of the death certificate, as well as identifying information about you. Be careful about the information and documentation you provide, and when. 

Apple policy states that they may legally wipe your loved one’s data if they receive a copy of their death certificate. Apple accounts are nontransferrable, even after death. However, some people have been able to gain access to a deceased person’s Apple account by working with Apple Support directly. 

Make sure to be clear with the support representative and ask exactly what you need to do. They’ll likely direct you to obtain a court order, which we’ll describe below. They may even inform you that you can’t gain access to the account at all (some reps are unfamiliar with the court order policy).   

Obtain a court order

It might sound extreme, but if you can’t access your loved one’s account using the methods above, you might need to obtain a court order. 

And in fact, Apple’s official policy for recovering a deceased person’s Apple ID requires you to provide a court order stating the following information: 

  • 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.
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How to Recover Your Own Apple ID

It’s not uncommon to forget or lose your Apple ID or the password associated with your ID. Maybe you changed the settings on your device, or maybe you recently changed your passwords and can’t remember what they are. 

Many people need to recover their own Apple ID at some point, which is why Apple Support offers several options for doing so. 

If you need to recover your own Apple ID or password, here’s what you’ll need to do. 

Try different email addresses

Your Apple ID is usually your primary email address. If one email address isn’t working, try entering a different one. You might have signed up for your Apple ID with your secondary or business email, instead. 

Use the Apple Support app

If you just need to recover the password for your Apple ID, you can use the Apple Support app on a family member or friend’s Apple device. 

This may be the simplest option if you know your Apple ID but not your password, and if someone close to you has an apple device with the support app. 

Open the Apple Support app, or ask your loved one to do so. Then follow these steps: 

  • Select Passwords and Security under Topics. 
  • Select Reset Apple ID password. 
  • Select Get Started. 
  • Tap “a different Apple ID.” 
  • Enter your Apple ID (usually your email address). 
  • Follow the steps on the screen until you get a confirmation that you’ve changed your password. 

Use the Apple ID account page

As an alternative to the app, you can use any computer to visit your Apple ID account page. Once there, click “Forgot Apple ID or password?” 

If you just need to recover your password, enter your Apple ID to start the process. If you need to recover your Apple ID, click “look it up” and enter your information. 

You’ll need your first name, last name, and email address. You’ll also need to be able to log into the email address you provide. 

See if you’re logged in somewhere else

If you don’t know the primary email associated with your Apple ID, you may be able to find it on one of your devices. Of course, you’ll need to be able to access one of your Apple devices, or an Apple service on another device, for this to work. 

On your iPhone or iPad, you can find your Apple ID email address in your iCloud or Media and Purchases settings. Just go to Settings, tap your name, and then tap Media and Purchases. 

On a Mac, go to the Apple menu, click System Preferences, and then click Apple ID. You can also click Internet Accounts from the System Preferences menu, and then select your iCloud account from the sidebar. 

On a Windows computer, you can find your Apple ID by opening iCloud for Windows. This only works if you’ve already logged into iCloud on your Windows computer previously. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Recovering an Apple ID

Recovering an Apple ID, whether it’s your own or a loved one’s, can be confusing. Here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about the process. 

What happens to an Apple ID when someone dies?

When Apple determines that an account holder has died (via a copy of the death certificate, for example), the company may suspend or completely delete that Apple ID. Apple data, including information on iCloud, is nontransferrable, even after death. 

That’s why it’s so important to be clear with your support representative, if you have to contact Apple Support, and ask questions before providing any documentation of their death. 

Can Apple unlock a deceased person’s iPhone?

Apple cannot unlock a deceased person’s iPhone, but they can help you recover an Apple ID if you provide the proper legal paperwork. Unfortunately, this legal paperwork often includes a court order. 

Can Apple unlock a phone or account with a death certificate?

A death certificate will help you gain access to a deceased person’s Apple account without the password or ID. But the death certificate could also cause Apple to delete the account entirely. 

It’s important to request an account transfer to your name and provide documentation that you are the legal representative or executor of the estate. As discussed above, Apple might ask you to obtain a court order before they’ll transfer ownership over to you or provide access to the account. 

Managing Your Digital Legacy

Locked devices and accounts can make life more difficult for your family members after you pass away. You can make the process of managing your digital legacy easier by securely storing your passwords, including your Apple ID. 

And keeping track of your digital footprint not only makes life easier for your family when you’re gone; it can also help you manage your own digital afterlife with less stress. 

If you don’t want anyone to access your computer, phone, or tablet after you’re gone, you should make your wishes known in a will or end-of-life plan. 

Make hard copies of any important documents you’re storing on those devices, or create a cloud storage folder that your family can access. Then, your family can safely clear your hard drives after some time, keeping your private information private.  


Sources: 
  1. “If you forgot your Apple ID.” Apple Support. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT201354
  2. “How to request access to a deceased family member's Apple accounts.” Apple Support. https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208510
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