Did you know that if you have cryptocurrency or NFTs, these need to be a part of your estate plan? Estate planning is complicated enough as it is. Adding another element into the mix—especially one as tricky as cryptocurrency—can be intimidating.
In the past few years, cryptocurrency and NFTs have become a bigger part of the investment world. Not only are they becoming mainstream assets, but estate lawyers are encouraging people to take these digital tokens into account when building an estate plan.
If you aren’t careful, your cryptocurrency could disappear into the cybersphere never to be seen again. What happens to crypto and other digital assets when you die? Though this issue continues to evolve, here’s everything you need to know about estate planning for cryptocurrency and other digital assets.
Jump ahead to these sections
- Why is estate planning important if you're interested in cryptocurrency?
- Estate planning considerations for cryptocurrency
- How to create a cryptocurrency estate plan
- Frequently asked questions
Why Is Estate Planning Important If You’re Interested in Cryptocurrency?
Even though probate laws apply to cryptocurrency like any other asset, the nature of cryptocurrency poses unique challenges in passing it on to your loved ones or other heirs. Unlike physical assets, this type of digital currency or token can be lost easily if you don’t have the proper storage or estate plan.
Your estate is only transferable if it’s accessible. Since cryptocurrency is typically accessed through what’s known as a private key known only to the owner, these are easily lost. Even traditional bank accounts and investment accounts can get lost in the estate planning process. This is especially true when speaking of digital assets.
If you’re trying to include cryptocurrency in your multigenerational wealth building plan, you’ll want to hold these assets close. While investors are giving more thought to the role of digital currency, this is far from a perfect science. That’s why it’s essential to find the strategy that works best for your needs.
Estate Planning Considerations for Cryptocurrency
What are the specific estate planning considerations for cryptocurrency? Like any other asset, cryptocurrency passes according to the terms of your will. Without a legal will or other estate planning measures, it passes according to your state’s intestacy laws. Similarly, if your family doesn’t know these accounts exist, they’ll just be forgotten.
Unlike other accounts, cryptocurrency typically employs a level of security that makes it worthless without the correct access codes and passwords. Cryptocurrency can be stored on a USB drive or by other electronic measures, which can make it hard for your heirs to find, even if they know your private key.
Anyone with your crypto account access information can make transactions because they aren’t tied to a name or Social Security Number. As a result, your estate plan must keep the information private during your life yet somehow accessible. This makes estate planning for cryptocurrency especially tricky, and many worry about keeping their data safe.
How to Create a Cryptocurrency Estate Plan
With that in mind, here are specific recommendations for creating a cryptocurrency estate plan. If you have a complex situation, you should speak to a legal professional to discuss your options.
- Exchange: If you’re using a cryptocurrency exchange (Coinbase, Kraken, etc.), you can share account information with loved ones using a secure password tool.
- Private keys: It’s important to share any seed phrases and private keys with someone you trust.
- Share control: If you don’t feel comfortable sharing your keys with a single person, split control amongst many individuals.
- Trust: Within your trust, you can create a clause to transfer crypto-asset ownership to the trust. Someone can be designated as the trustee, or a company can be named.
- Wallet: Finally, you can use a cascading multisignature wallet instead of a self-sovereign wallet if this feels like a better choice.
For those transferring digital assets, keep in mind any tax implications. This can be a tricky process, so proceed with care.
Frequently Asked Questions: Estate Planning for Cryptocurrency
While early adopters have been investing in cryptocurrency for over a decade, the subject remains relatively new in the world of estate planning. As with any new trend in estate planning, you might end up with many questions.
How can you talk to a loved one who’s interested in cryptocurrency about estate planning?
If your loved one has invested in cryptocurrency or other digital assets, you can share the many high-profile stories of people who lost their private key or other access details, making a fortune of Bitcoin completely inaccessible.
Remind them that the instructions for their access to crypto accounts may end up being dozens of pages of details for downloading personal wallets, going to websites, and covering exchanges. Unless they want their investments to be worthless as well, they must plan ahead to pass along their digital currency.
How do you find an attorney specializing in estate planning for cryptocurrency?
When looking for an attorney, you’ll need one knowledgeable in estate planning or probate law. However, some of these attorneys might not be experienced in the nuances of estate planning involving cryptocurrency.
Cryptocurrency is subject to the same probate laws as any other asset, but the nature of crypto brings additional challenges not posed by traditional bank accounts. Look for references about cryptocurrency on the website of any attorney you’re considering. You can also ask them about their crypto planning experience during your initial consultation.
Consider whether it’s important to you for your attorney to draft the instructions for accessing your crypto accounts, or whether you’re comfortable doing it yourself. If you want the attorney to do it, you’ll need to be more selective in finding someone with practical crypto knowledge rather than just how the law applies.
Cryptocurrency Planning for the Future
For those who are digitally-savvy, cryptocurrency is a great way to build wealth and be a part of a movement. However, like all assets, you need to consider the long-term implications and planning needs.
If you’re ambitious about your estate plan, you shouldn’t have any problem including cryptocurrency and NFTs. As always, the goal is to protect your legacy.