Whether Bitcoin, Ethereum or any of the various other digital currencies, cryptocurrency has evolved to play a major role in today’s society. Just like any of your other assets, cryptocurrency is undoubtedly something you will need to keep in mind when creating or updating your estate plan.
What Exactly is Cryptocurrency?
Cryptocurrency is a form of digital currency that is maintained by blockchain technology rather than maintained by a government. As referenced above, there are many forms of cryptocurrency, some more popular than others. Among the most popular forms of cryptocurrency are Bitcoin, Ethereum, Tether, Dogecoin, Chainlink and Cardano – but there are many more; thousands, in fact.
Cryptocurrency is not your classic ‘cash under the mattress’ currency; it is accessible only by a secure password, otherwise known as a private key, that cannot be recovered if lost. This heightens the importance of both remembering your password to access the cryptocurrency and also properly passing on that information to whomever you will be giving access to following your death.
Bitcoin and Estate Planning: Factors to Consider
With the most popular cryptocurrency, Bitcoin, there are several factors that present potential obstacles in terms of the estate planning process. Firstly, there is no personal identification information associated with your Bitcoin assets. In addition, as mentioned above, you (and your heirs) will need to have a password, or “private key”, in order to access these assets. Lastly, your Bitcoin assets may not always be readily available to your heirs.
NFTs and Estate Planning: What are They and What You Have to Consider
Similar to the rise in prominence of cryptocurrency, NFTs (non-fungible tokens) are also assets that you will need to keep in mind when crafting your estate plan.
An NFT is a unique collectible asset, such as digital art, that is only able to be purchased on an NFT marketplace. Other examples of NFTs can include avatars or even virtual real estate such as Ethereum Towers, an apartment building existing only in the Metaverse.
Much like cryptocurrency, your NFTs can only be accessed by use of a password or personal key. This is why, as with cryptocurrency, it is critical that you share this information with the individual that you will be passing on the assets to. If you do not, that person will not be able to access any NFTs you possess, and the assets are then essentially non-existent.
Cryptocurrency and the Law: What to Know
As of 2022, 46 of the 50 states in the U.S. have adopted either the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act or the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act. For example, in 2016, New York State adopted the Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (UFADAA). What this law does is create a simplified process for fiduciaries to access a deceased person’s digital assets without having to fret about the specific differences in each service provider’s Terms of Service agreements. In addition, this law allows you to declare what exactly you want the fiduciary to have access to following your death, whether that be all of your digital assets or some.
Keys to Factoring in Cryptocurrency in the Estate Planning Process
Passing on your digital assets following your death is just as important as passing on any physical assets that you have. Although the process can seem quite complicated, we are here to help you through it. As referenced above, it is of extreme importance that you store your passwords/private keys properly and make sure to pass along that information to your beneficiary. For more information regarding estate planning matters, check out our helpful resources here, including articles, webinars, guides and information about our newsletter.