Death and self-custody: How to pass on your crypto when you die

The average crypto investor probably isn’t planning on dying of old age anytime soon, but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t have a plan in place to pass on their crypto in the event they meet an unlikely demise, lawyers warn.

Speaking to Cointelegraph, Dubai-based crypto lawyer Irina Heaver believes that “billions” worth of Bitcoin (BTC) has been lost due to a lack of proper death-related planning by hodlers.

She noted that many families have been unable to access their loved one’s crypto assets due to private keys being taken to the grave, and emphasized the importance of discussing crypto assets with family and including them in their will.

Heaver said that the typical crypto investor is a “male millennial” between the ages of 27 to 42, which is the age range where arranging one’s financial affairs in case of death is the “last thing” to come up in conversation.

However, the lawyer believes it is “essential” to confirm that the administrator of one’s will is proficient in using cold and hot wallets in order to properly distribute one’s holdings.

Digital asset lawyer Liam Hennessy, partner at Australian law firm Gadens, believes that crypto investors should know that the “vanilla first step” to safeguarding their families’ future is to prepare a will – but they should also be mindful that crypto is a complicated asset and that the will needs to include really specific instructions on where the crypto is and how the keys are accessed.

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Heaver has observed “huge problems” in the process of inheriting crypto, including a case where a family approached her asking for help in accessing a deceased loved one’s crypto assets.

Digital asset lawyer Krish Gosai, managing partner of Gosai law, believes that it is especially important to inform beneficiaries about crypto due to the lack of understanding surrounding digital assets.

Gosai believes it’s important to inform the executor of the will or loved ones about the existence of crypto assets but advised against sharing sensitive login information or seed phrases, saying it isn’t necessary.

He suggested that, if necessary, the seed phrase could be split among four family members.

Tax implications

Inheriting crypto can also be complex due to the differences in tax structures among jurisdictions.

Heaver added that in some jurisdictions, there are inheritance taxes.¬†For example, in the United Kingdom, crypto assets will be “liable” for inheritance tax on the death of the holder and capital gains tax on a valid disposal.

Related:Answering a morbid question: What happens to your Bitcoin when you die?

In Australia, there is no inheritance tax, but Heaver noted that there is a capital gains tax if one disposes of an asset inherited from a deceased estate.

She noted there are then jurisdictions where there are no taxes, like the United Arab Emerites.

Digital asset lawyer Liam Hennessy, partner at Gadens, added that realizing digital assets at the best price can be another complication, due to factors such as price fluctuations and smart execution protocols.

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