Is a Crypto-Will a new frontier for estate planning and administration?

April 3, 2019 Ian Hull Estate & Trust, Estate Litigation, Estate Planning, Uncategorized, Wills Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

The popularity of cryptocurrencies has heightened the world’s attention on the versatility of blockchain technology. An interesting development is the application of a blockchain solution for estate planning of crypto assets.

Generally speaking, a blockchain is a shared, real-time ledger of any type of information that can be recorded ranging from financial transactions to ownership of real property. Blockchain technology allows for blocks of information to be stored in a chain on a distributed peer-to-peer network.

The traditional method of estate planning, as we know it, involves hiring a lawyer to prepare a will, which appoints the executor(s) and lists the beneficiaries. When the testator passes away it is the responsibility of the executor to administer the estate in accordance with the will. This traditional method has created uncertainty for testators who own Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency and intend for their beneficiaries to receive them.

It is estimated that millions of Bitcoins have been lost as a result of testators not adequately factoring this type of asset into their estate plan. For testators that have considered their crypto assets, concerns still remain as to whether the executor has the technological ability to access and distribute a cryptocurrency holding.

One possible way for the testator to address this uncertainty is to author a plan with detailed instructions and provide the private key to the executor(s).

A start-up company in the United States has fostered a novel approach to this issue. The company’s product offering uses a blockchain-registered will also known as a “crypto-will” to enable digital assets to be transferred automatically. The idea behind the product is that once a testator’s death record appears in the Death Master File, a computer database of death records made available by the United States Social Security Office, the crypto-will is then activated and executes the wishes of the testator. This potential solution eliminates the need for an executor to administer this portion of an individual’s estate.

As the crypto-will is still very much in the development stage, many questions still remain. It will be interesting to discover how the concept of a crypto-will evolves in the near future.

 

Thank you for reading,
Ian M. Hull

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