In the realm of crypto assets, the decentralized nature poses distinct obstacles when it comes to transferring them after one's demise. To ensure that your loved ones can locate, identify, and access your crypto holdings upon your passing, it is crucial to undertake a thoughtful approach. Numerous solutions exist to tackle this issue, encompassing methods such as securely recording seed phrases in writing, safeguarding encrypted private keys, or employing a dead man's switch mechanism.
What Happens to Your Crypto After You Die?
In the ever-growing realm of cryptocurrency, it is paramount to consider the fate of your digital assets in the event of your passing. While estate planning is a customary practice to ensure the proper distribution of traditional assets, including crypto assets introduces unique challenges that must be carefully addressed.
The initial hurdle lies in locating and identifying crypto assets, given the multitude of software, hardware, and exchanges that may house them. Without access to pertinent information like private keys, seed phrases, or PINs, efforts to uncover and retrieve these assets can prove fruitless. Consequently, valuable cryptocurrencies like bitcoin, ether, or altcoins could be irretrievably lost. To prepare for such scenarios as a crypto holder or to facilitate the recovery of a deceased individual's assets as a beneficiary, certain measures can be taken.
How to Pass On Your Crypto After Death
Physical, Low-Tech solutions
Traditional Approach: Pen and Paper
A straightforward solution involves writing down your private keys and seed phrases and securely storing them in a safe. You can accompany this with clear instructions on accessing the assets upon your demise. However, bear in mind the inherent risks: the information may be susceptible to theft, loss, or destruction during your lifetime or after your passing.
Enhanced Security: Bank Vaults
For an extra layer of protection, consider storing your private keys and seed phrases in a secure vault offered by banks. These facilities provide insurance coverage and follow well-established procedures, ensuring that your beneficiaries or executor can access the assets upon your death.
Digital Storage: USB or External Hard Drive
An alternative approach involves saving your private keys and seed phrases on a password-protected USB or external hard drive. This mitigates the risk of unauthorized access. However, it's crucial to consider potential pitfalls such as damage or corruption of the storage device. To safeguard against this, it is advisable to create multiple backups.
Remember that if you opt for password protection, you will need to securely store the password as well. You may choose to write it down and keep it in a secure location or utilize an online password manager.
You can share your private keys and seed phrases via encrypted email with a trusted recipient. Provide instructions on accessing the funds upon your death. However, this method relies heavily on the trusted individual's adherence to the instructions while maintaining the email's security during your lifetime.
Third-Party Hosting Site
Another option is to utilize a third-party hosting site to access the encrypted email. Access may require a password. Be cautious, as if the hosting site ceases to exist, the information could be lost.
Dead Man's Switch
Setting up a dead man's switch is an effective measure. If you fail to verify your existence within a specific timeframe, your private key information will be automatically released to a nominated recipient. Verification can be as simple as accessing an email or performing a task at regular intervals. However, be aware that failure to verify can occur due to reasons other than death.
Social Recovery via Data Custodial Services
Social recovery through data custodial services involves naming multiple guardians who come together after your death to reconstitute your access information. The custodial service provider typically requires appropriate documentation to verify the death. Choose trustworthy guardians and set clear terms. Exercise caution with custodial services that allow key reconstitution without death verification.
Smart Contract Wallets and Legacy Wallets
Ethereum's smart contract wallets, such as legacy multisig wallets, enable multiple signatories, making them suitable for social recovery. Create a wallet with yourself and your beneficiaries as holders. On death, co-owners and personal representatives can access the wallet, ensuring a smooth transition of access. Alternatively, create legacy wallets for safekeeping during your lifetime, which can only be accessed by personal representatives with proof of death and court-issued authority. Physical safe custody vaults often offer insurance protection.
How to Incorporate Crypto Assets in Your Will
When it comes to crypto asset planning, it is essential to distinguish between granting access to your crypto and intending for someone to benefit from these assets. To ensure comprehensive planning, it is crucial to incorporate crypto assets into traditional estate planning.
The laws of each jurisdiction govern the transfer of assets upon death, typically through a will. However, it is important to note that most jurisdictions still rely on paper-based wills with wet signatures and do not recognize digital wills. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that your wishes regarding crypto assets are legally recognized.
To achieve this, it is recommended to structure your will to reflect how private keys will be passed to the recipient upon your death. Additionally, clarify who should benefit from the underlying assets if it differs from the designated guardian or nominee.
By integrating your crypto asset planning into traditional estate planning, you can ensure that your wishes are legally binding and that your crypto assets are appropriately accounted for and transferred according to your intentions.
What Happens to Crypto Assets Held on Exchanges After Death
In the event of a deceased account holder, centralized crypto exchanges often offer assistance in locating and accessing the crypto assets.
Identifying the assets held by the deceased becomes relatively straightforward if the exchange's app was installed on their smartphone or laptop and the account was set up for automatic login upon opening.
However, it is crucial for those handling the deceased's estate to exercise caution when accessing such accounts after their passing. In certain jurisdictions, such actions may be considered a criminal offense, as outlined in laws like The Computer Misuse Act 1990 in England. Moreover, each exchange has its own regulations regarding password disclosure and third-party access, which are detailed in their Terms of Service.
To ensure compliance with the law, the executor of the will should promptly contact the exchanges to notify them of the death and provide all necessary information and documentation. The correct procedure is typically outlined in the exchange's Terms of Service. This step often involves submitting proof of death, such as a death certificate, along with evidence of the executor's authority to handle the deceased account holder's crypto assets. This proof can be in the form of a copy of the will or court-issued authorization.
How to Access Private Keys as a Beneficiary
When storing your crypto in self-custody wallets like hardware wallets or paper wallets, it is crucial to establish a plan that enables trusted individuals to access your private keys in the event of your passing.
In many cases, there are methods available to recover these assets, even if the deceased did not create a specific plan. It is possible that files containing private keys might be saved on one of the deceased's devices, or seed phrases could be discovered in their notebooks or safes. However, if the deceased took additional precautions to safeguard their private keys through encryption or password protection, it becomes significantly more challenging to locate and access the private keys. Consequently, there is a risk that the digital assets of the deceased may be irretrievably lost.
Can You Pass On Your Mining or Dao Roles Upon Death?
After a person's death, there are important considerations regarding the continuation of play-to-earn games and the beneficiaries who should partake in them. Controversies also arise concerning the distribution of royalties from NFTs or unminted works, as well as the handling of mining activities, crypto airdrops, and DAO involvements of the deceased.
To address these matters, it is crucial to provide clarity through a will or a letter of wishes that accompanies it. However, it is essential to carefully consider all potential challenges and practical aspects associated with these issues.
To safeguard your crypto assets and prevent potential disputes among beneficiaries, it is crucial to establish a comprehensive succession plan. Integrating your crypto asset planning into your overall will preparation process is advisable. This ensures that your will is legally recognized and that the crypto asset component aligns with the requirements of your local jurisdiction.
Neglecting this crucial step may result in complex legal procedures and disputes among your beneficiaries, potentially leading to the permanent loss of your crypto assets.