Cryptocurrency should be included in the estate plans of those who hold these assets.
The world has grown increasingly digital.
Pictures and movies no longer need to be taken on film.
Music can be streamed rather than played from records, tapes, or compact discs.
Sidebar: I actually remember 8-track tapes and had quite a collection in my teen years!
Cash is no longer required to make purchases with the rise of online banking.
According to a recent U.S. News & World Report article titled “What Holding Crypto Means for Your Estate Plan,” alternative forms of digital currency have become popular in certain spheres.
While those experienced in investing may recognize the need for estate planning, the average investor may fail to recognize the need for digital asset planning.
Those who utilize cryptocurrency may find themselves with significant wealth tied up in these assets.
The market for this currency is worth more than $1 trillion.
How is cryptocurrency different from transferring cash online?
While traditional currency is controlled through a centralized banking system, cryptocurrency is decentralized.
Access to these assets is done with a private numerical key.
Often the owner stores these in a digital wallet.
If the executor of the estate does not know how to the access information, these assets could be lost forever.
Transferring this type of wealth takes intentional estate planning.
Accessing traditional assets can be challenging enough without comprehensive and organized estate planning.
Cryptocurrency adds layers of complexity with seed phrases, hardware wallets, and private keys.
Failing to properly account for these can lead to significant financial loss.
What can be done to prepare for the transfer of these assets?
First, one must create a last will and testament.
This fundamental legal document directs the administration and eventual distribution of assets through probate.
When creating a last will and testament, do not include detailed information like bank account numbers or access keys for cryptocurrency in the legal document itself.
A last will and testament becomes public record once you die and it is recorded with the probate court.
Once recorded, anyone could find the necessary information to steal your assets.
Instead, inform your executor and loved ones of the existence of the cryptocurrency and how to access it.
If your cryptocurrency is owned through an exchange and you want to maintain your privacy, then creating a revocable living trust and funding it with the exchange account may be just the ticket for you.
With more complex cryptocurrency wealth, you may need to establish both a trustee and a custodian of the digital assets.
Dividing the private keys among family members and trusted friends can minimize the control of a single person.
People with cryptocurrency cannot afford to jeopardize their investments through lack of (or improper) estate planning.
Be sure to engage the services of an experienced estate planning attorney, as this is not a DIY project.
Reference: U.S. News & World Report (Oct. 5, 2021) “What Holding Crypto Means for Your Estate Plan”