How to leave Cryptocurrency in your will

27 February 2020

Leaving cryptocurrency in a will

More and more individuals now own some form of cryptocurrency, ranging from mere dabbling to serious portfolios. How many people have considered what happens to these holdings on their death? People who already own crypto assets will understand this blog but may not have thought about their will!

Cryptocurrencies are held in either exchanges or wallets. Those who hold such assets will know this.

They will also know that these exchanges and wallets can be protected by serious security involving passwords, pin numbers, codes, and 2 step filters. 

Cryptocurrency is a form of digital cash and not a tangible, traditional asset. If you leave it in your will without the password security details, your beneficiaries simply will not be able to find it, let alone access it. 

So, the following steps are suggested as a suitable method to ensure that crypto assets left in a will can be accessed and enjoyed by the designated beneficiaries:

  • list your cryptocurrency in your will
  • insert enough information in the will about the exchanges and/or digital wallets
  • leave a side letter containing all the passwords/pins/codes etc required to access the wallets/exchanges
  • in the side letter, include a detailed process how to access the assets

Please list the currency. If you don’t specifically list the cryptocurrency, it will form part of the residue of the estate (the mop up remainder). If there is no clarity about the existence of the crypto assets, they might easily become lost. Who would know they exist? A spouse might know, but accessing the assets? Without the access details, as already stated, great difficulty will be experienced in retrieving any value. Beneficiaries who are not close to you may never discover the very existence!

Also list the wallets/exchanges. Actually list these in the will itself too. Describe how and where to find the crypto assets. It will nigh on impossible to do this without clear instructions.

Wallets may be kept on a smart phone/computer/tablet or other device. These devices should be expressly mentioned too and kept safely. Wallet back-ups and ‘key codes’ should be treated identically. These details can also be listed in the side letter.

Your will is to be made public as a result of going through probate, so remember that it should never include secrecy details.

The side letter is a consequence of the need for security. Refer to this letter in your will but do not attach it or incorporate it in the will itself. It should be kept safe and either kept with the will (but not attached) or separate. The reason it shouldn’t be attached is that if the will appears to have something attached to it, e.g. a paperclip mark, the probate registry may mistakenly believe that there is a missing codicil. This could cause problems. The side letter will not be made public on probate. Furthermore, this letter can be updated as and when required. We suggest that the side letter should contain at least the following;

  • the name of the exchanges and any digital wallets,
  • the hardware, namely the computer, smartphone, or other devices where the cryptocurrency is stored,
  • the security details, namely, all login and password data required to access these exchanges and wallets.

Make sure that your side letter can be found after your have passed away. Its sensible to include the step by step access instructions in the side letter too. Try to explain this in everyday language and avoid technical jargon which might confuse people unused to the crypto world! The instructions can of course be update as required without having to change the will.

In the will itself, you can leave cryptocurrency in the legacy clauses, something like;

"I leave all my cryptocurrency investments and assets, tokens or vouchers, crypto coins, tokens, together with any other form of digital currency or value in my exchanges and/or wallets to _____________________[beneficiary].

My crypto assets may be discoverable on one or more of on-line exchanges, digital wallets, paper wallets or however the same may be devolved. My following devices are likely to store crypto assets; ___________________-, ___________________. These devices should not be passed over to any person until such time as my crypto assets and information contained in my side letter (explained below) has been transferred to the above beneficiary.

I have made a side letter signed by me which is safe and separate from this will explaining how to access my on-line exchanges and digital wallets. This document needs to be kept safe and private as it contains the codes. passwords, PINs, and key codes required to access my cryptocurrency. This side letter will be stored with my personal possessions. [e.g. Or with my solicitor]."

Alternatively, you could direct your executors to sell the cryptocurrency and simply leave the equivalent monies to a named beneficiary. It’s up to you!!

John Davies
31st January 2020

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