Crypto Inheritance: How to Make Sure Your Dependents Can Access Your Coins
Learn how to make sure your family can access your crypto wealth in the case of your untimely passing.
As cryptocurrency continues to grow in ubiquity, an important issue that is easily overlooked is crypto estate planning, i.e. how to make sure that your family can access your crypto in the case of your untimely death.
In this article, we will delve into crypto estate planning, why it is important, and the different ways you can ensure your dependents can access their crypto inheritance.
What is Crypto Inheritance Planning?
Estate planning refers to the process of organizing one’s wealth in a manner that ensures loved ones have access to it after death.
Inheritance planning is also concerned with reducing the tax liabilities that come with inheritances while simultaneously ensuring that the rights of the people involved are protected by law.
Typically, estate planning is done with the help of a few professionals such as a lawyer and a tax advisor. However, it is possible to plan one’s estate without outside help.
**Crypto estate planning refers to putting processes in place to ensure your dependents and loved ones have access to your digital assets after your death. **
However, due to the nature of cryptocurrency, special consideration must be taken to keep the assets safe while simultaneously guaranteeing loved ones posthumous access.
Why Crypto Estate Planning Matters
In 2018, Gerald Cotten, the head of Quadriga CX, went on a trip to India. At the time, Quadriga CX was Canada’s largest cryptocurrency trading platform. Unfortunately, Gerald Cotten died in December 2018. His death was announced to Quadriga CX’s millions of users in January 2019.
With the announcement came another shocking development: Cotten was reportedly the only one with the passwords to the exchange’s bitcoin account.
Thousands of people lost the money they had on the trading platform. New details were eventually revealed about the underhanded dealings at Quadriga CX. Most people were unable to recoup their funds. With his death, Cotten and Quadriga CX owed C$215 million (178m USD) to clients.
Unfortunately, this scenario is fairly common in crypto. A cursory online search will reveal many anecdotes of people who are unable to access crypto assets after their loved ones have passed away.
This is why crypto estate planning is so important. It helps to ensure your loved ones know how to access your crypto holdings. However, because keeping private keys safe and private is essential to the security of the crypto one holds, there is a certain complexity to crypto estate planning.
Additionally, because the legal status of bitcoin and other cryptoassets is still in flux in many places, traditional methods, such as trusts, are sometimes unsuitable or impossible. This means that crypto owners must take special steps to safeguard their holdings while promoting posthumous accessibility.
Ways to Ensure Your Dependants Can Access Your Crypto
It is important to note that we cannot provide financial advice and your specific situation should be discussed with an estate planning professional.
However, in this section, we will discuss a few things you can do that will help your loved ones access your crypto holdings after your death — while also ensuring that the holdings are kept safe from malicious parties.
There are two main instruments used in crypto estate planning. These are:
Creating copies of privileged information
Using trusted third-party solutions
Creating Copies of Privileged Information
This simply means writing down information about your crypto holdings.
What follows is a look into the specific apparatus used in the crypto industry as there are different considerations to be made for each of them.
Many crypto holders use trading platforms to trade their holdings. Most of the popular crypto exchanges are centralized and custodial. This means you deposit funds into the exchange and it’s then in their wallet and ultimate control. Users need a password and login to access such exchanges.
In the event of your death, exchanges are unlikely to contact your family as they will be unaware of your passing. Thus, to ensure your loved ones know where to start, write down the trading platforms where you have an account. This is a simple list of the platforms you use to trade and the amounts contained in them.
It is important to note that you should not write your login credentials or password on this same paper. We will get to that later.
The inventory can be as simple as “I have accounts on Binance and Coinbase. Each has approximately 1 BTC, 2 ETH, and 30 BNB.” Alternatively, you can be vague about the amounts. Put this in an envelope and store it in a safe place where you know your family is likely to find it in the event of your death.
As mentioned earlier, one of the major issues post-death is that loved ones are unaware of the deceased’s crypto holdings. Taking the above course of action alleviates this problem for assets held on exchanges.
If you are using a decentralized exchange to trade, however, the procedure will be different because there you are in control of the crypto. Thus, we will treat it as a wallet and follow the procedures outlined below.
If you are using a custodial wallet, the procedure is the same as for centralized exchanges outlined above. However, if you are using a non-custodial wallet, the first step is to back up your wallet. This is something that is typically done at the onboarding stage.
However, if you haven’t done it yet, then write down the name of the wallet you use and the twelve-word recovery phrase on a piece of paper. Put this in an envelope and store it securely.
The recovery phrase is a human-readable representation of your private key.
If you choose to store it at home and have large holdings, it is encouraged to lock it away somewhere only a trusted loved one can access, such as a bedroom wardrobe with a key or a safe. Alternatively, you may consider opening a deposit box in the bank to store this. However, be aware that anyone with the seed phrase can steal your holdings, so make sure you choose a bank with high-security standards. This is also where you could store the passwords and login credentials for your accounts on custodial exchanges.
Once you have backed up your non-custodial wallet, then you must make another list for your loved ones.
State the wallets you use and the type of cryptocurrencies they hold. It is best to be vague about the amounts held therein. Also, include instructions of where the backup is securely stored. It would look something like this: “I use Jaxx and Trezor. The backups are in Bank of America, 10th Street branch.”
Finally, it is important to ensure your loved ones know not to throw away any devices thinking it’s just an old computer or USB stick. List the devices you use without divulging the particulars. This is just to let them know that your crypto is stored there. This can look something like: “My old purple computer and my yellow phone are important. Don’t let anyone use them.”
As for passwords and backups, use a safe or bank deposits.
Using Trusted Third-Party Solutions
The other way to approach crypto estate planning is using trusted third-party solutions.
You can work with your lawyer to draft an approach to ensuring your dependents can access your holdings. This is done by drafting a comprehensive will and stating what should go to who.
However, it is important to know that if your lawyer has your seed phrase then they can take control of your holdings. Thus, this may be too big of a risk for some.
Additionally, it is important to note that if you choose to go about it this way, you will need to consider tax implications and set up the approach in such a way that your loved ones can reduce the potential tax burden.
Crypto Inheritance Firms
Alternatively, you can leverage crypto asset inheritance firms. Examples include Third Key Solutions, DigiPulse, and Safe Haven. It is important to conduct research into these firms and the specific tools they use to ensure your holdings cannot be stolen.
How to Securely Share Your Trust Wallet Recovery Phrase with Dependents
To ensure that your dependents can access your funds held in Trust Wallet you, firstly, need to back up your wallet. This is something you should have done the moment you first downloaded the app. But, in case you didn’t, now would be a good time.
Next, store your recovery phrase in a secure place, such as a safe or a safety deposit box. Finally, explain to your loved ones in detail how they can recover your funds should you experience an untimely death.