Since cryptocurrency is still a relatively new phenomenon, not everyone has put much thought into what happens to it when you die. After all, leaving cryptocurrency behind for loved ones has not yet been a serious issue as most crypto investors are still far away from dying from old age. But what happens when that time approaches or if you die early from disease, an accident, or another cause?
The key element of cryptocurrency inheritance that comes up over and over again is that there is one way to access crypto. You need to have the passcode that gives you access to that person’s digital wallet to get their funds. Realistically, you do not even have to be dead for someone to access your cryptocurrency, provided they have the code.
This is where the problem arises. Most cryptocurrency holders and investors do not think to share their passcode with a loved one or write it down. After all, doing either of those things would be a major security risk. All cryptocurrency transactions are final, so if it turns out your loved one is unscrupulous, they could just steal your crypto. Or if you wrote the passcode down and it was found by a criminal, they could steal it.
Because of the risks of sharing the crypto wallet passcode while you are still alive, few people will want to take this step. It would require extreme trust in anyone who has access to that code. But what happens if you die and no one can access your crypto via a passcode? Is it just inaccessible forever?
The ideal situation is to store your private keys and passcodes for crypto wallets somewhere that is secure and your family can access after your death. You should already be storing this information somewhere secure so you can access your crypto if you forget the details. Make sure someone knows where the information is. This way, your loved one will not have the key yet but will know where to find it.
It is important to note that you should not ever store your passcode or private keys in your will. While this is a simple way of ensuring your family finds the information, it also makes it easy for others to find. The document can easily become public. Even if the will does not become available to the general public, your lawyers and all family members will likely be able to see it.
If you want to ensure that your loved ones are able to get your cryptocurrency after you die, start by assessing and organizing it. Make a list of your crypto holdings, their location (on a wallet or exchange and which one), and current value. You should ideally do this online and in private.
You should then separate your crypto based on ease of access. Keep some that you want easily accessible and some that you do not want to touch for a while. You can have as many intermediary sections as you want. Consider your current storage for each tier and whether that requires adjustment. Do not forget to also store backups in a range of access-controlled locations that are secure. These could be fireproof safes at your house, a bank vault, or your lawyer’s office.
This is when you should also determine how you want to divide up your crypto when you die. In the case of dividing cryptocurrencies among several heirs, always deal with percentages instead of fixed amounts. As you complete this step, decide how the division of crypto will take place. Will they have your crypto transferred to their wallets? Or will someone convert your assets into fiat and then divide them? If you go with the former option, ensure your heirs will understand the tech and be able to make a wallet.
Due to the issue of cryptocurrency inheritance, services are arising to assist with the asset transfers. These essentially let you put your crypto wealth in a safety deposit box. Just remember to use caution before transferring crypto to one of these services. You do not want to get scammed.
Estate attorneys use the term “probate by truck” to refer to heirs claiming assets based on the idea that this is what the deceased would have wanted. This becomes more complicated with cryptocurrency since it is not a physical object you can grab. Even if you try probate by truck, you will be out of luck without the private key.
Completing the above steps is good, but what happens if you die before you are able to do so? What happens if you die and no one can access your coins? The coins become “frozen” as they just sit in your wallet. Since the keys and passcodes are not known, they will likely never be used.
Unfortunately, when large quantities of cryptocurrency become frozen in this way, it could affect the market. The trading volumes can be negatively impacted, driving down the coin’s price. Experts estimate that already 2.3 to 3.7 million Bitcoin have been lost, including the ones lost due to the death of the holders.
No one will be able to escape death, so if you hold cryptocurrency, you should figure out what will happen to it after you die. You should examine your current cryptocurrency holdings and set up a transfer system, so your loved ones receive them at the time of your death.