The recent and unexpected death of Gerald Cotten, CEO of the Canadian cryptocurrency exchange platform Quadriga, has left thousands without access to their digital funds.
Cotten, just 31 at the time of his death, took to the grave all the core cold wallet keys, leaving to others the task of sorting out how to access Bitcoin, Litecoin and other cryptos held by his company’s users.
It also begs the larger question: What happens to your digital currencies if you die?
Cryptocurrencies only date back to 2009, when Bitcoin was created, and there is still some question about their staying power. As a result, most financial experts are preaching caution to investors.
But Cotten’s death brings to light an added wrinkle: What are the loved ones of crypto holders to do when the account holder suddenly passes away without leaving a record of their access keys?
Here are three tips:
- Write a Letter of Will — After making the decision to take the cryptocurrency plunge, an investor would do well to write a letter to family detailing exactly how to access their account. The letter should outline a complete access plan, provide the exact location of wallet keys, and list any PINs, passwords and multi-signatures necessary to access the funds. This letter should be attached to a greater will and stored in a safe location, like a strong box or safety deposit box.
- Educate Your Family on Cryptocurrency — Anyone heavily invested in cryptocurrency should educate their loved ones about the investment tool, preferably after a letter of will has been finalized. This will help your family make safe investment decisions with the digital currency funds when the primary account holder passes away. With education, the next of kin can safely liquidate the currency fund or roll over the investment for longer-term gains.
- Appoint an Advisor — Anyone holding a substantial cryptocurrency sum should attach a letter of will to the contact information of a trusted investment consultant who is well-versed in digital currency. Doing so gives the estate’s inheritor and/or executor the ability to immediately contact said advisor, who can provide expert advice on how best to proceed.