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Cryptocurrency and estates

08 Nov 2018

With the advent of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin in 2009, cryptoassets have grown to become a digital asset that everyone can possess. The anonymity of cryptocurrencies is a major factor in their success, but presents a unique set of challenges for estate planning.

Between daily changes to assets and the vast array of currencies available on the market, it is often difficult for investors to record their cryptoassets. This area is something estate planning lawyers are only just coming to understand.

While the anonymous nature of transactions is certainly one of cryptocurrency’s biggest selling points, this aspect does present challenges when it comes to estate planning.

It is a hot topic, and there is not yet a lot of practical experience in this space. Markets are learning as they grow, and also, learning as they crash. People are buying cryptoassets and there’s not necessarily a lot of evidence outside of their own records as to what they actually have at any given point.

Crypto currency

Digital wallets are used to store, send and receive cryptoassets. These wallets have keys which are used to authorise transactions, and these keys should not be stored in public documents so record keeping is quite difficult to unlock when required by a third party.

A Will, once probated, becomes a public document and while you may note that you own Bitcoin or Ethereum, you should not write the keys into your Will itself. Doing so could be a breach to your assets’ security.

With the provision of PINs, passwords and asset codes presenting security and theft risks, estate planners generally advise against making this information public. The same can be said of cryptoasset wallet keys.

The difficulty of ensuring that beneficiaries are able to access keys and wallets while maintaining the asset’s security is further heightened by the constantly changing nature of these assets.

These cryptoassets are changing daily and therefore if you want to keep records for access in the event you might lose capacity or pass away, you will be constantly updating said records.

If your attorney or executor cannot access this information, in a worst case scenario, it is gone.

While cryptocurrency will not fundamentally change the nature of estate planning, it will change how some clients choose to secure their assets.

If you have cryptoassets in your investment portfolio, consider having a conversation with your estate planning lawyer regarding the storage and accessibility of your asset keys.

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For more information contact

Anna Hacker

National Manager
Estate Planning

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