What Happens to My Bitcoins When I Die?

No-one likes to think about dying, but equally many of us want the peace of mind knowing that our estate is in good order when the time comes.

Good order means ensuring that all the right documents are in place and that details of our assets are clearly documented for heirs and executors.

For most people this means bank accounts, savings, shares and the usual ‘mainstream’ investments they’ve built up over time.

But as cryptocurrency ownership grows exponentially, they are becoming part of more and more estates. This means that if own crypto you will need to clearly document your holdings to ensure your coins can be passed on to future generations.

The world of Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies is still confusing for many people. Without clear instructions detailing how to access your digital currency, these assets could be lost forever.

And, unlike cash in a bank, if your private keys and therefore access to your cryptocurrency is lost then it is gone forever. There is absolutely no way of getting it back.

So, here’s a guide to some of the steps you can take to ensure this doesn’t happen:


Will & Letters of Wishes

The first and most obvious thing to do is to make a Will. In the UK, if you don’t have a Will you’ll die intestate meaning the Government decides how your assets are distributed, and they may not go to who you would have preferred.

You may choose to mention your cryptoassets here, but do not include specific details of your holding as a Will becomes a matter of public record in most countries, meaning anyone can obtain a copy.

Secondly, if you’ve written or are planning to write a letter of wishes for your loved ones, then it might be worth making a specific mention of the fact that you own cryptocurrency.


Idiots Guide

Alongside your letter of wishes, create a clear, easy to follow document listing details of all your crypto assets and how to access them, including logins.

Make sure this information is kept offline and secure and leave details of where it’s stored for your loved ones or and/or executors, as long as you trust them!

Assume you are writing for someone who has never heard of Bitcoin. Create a step-by-step guide to everything they need to do, including websites they may need to visit.


Hardware Wallets

If you’ve stored crypto on a hardware wallet, such as a Trezor, for safekeeping, then write down a clear set of instructions on how to use it.

Again, assume the person you’re writing for has no knowledge of crypto when producing these instructions.


Paper & Metal Wallets

This is where your private key is written on a piece of paper for safekeeping. There is also metal version on the market as well which can protect against fire and other acts of nature.

Ensure that your executor or loved one knows where to find this and store it somewhere safe! If your private key is lost, so are you cryptoassets.


USB Sticks

Some people keep details of their cryptoassets and private keys on a USB stick disconnected from the internet.

This is not advisable because at some point you’ll have to plug the stick into a computer to access the information.

If you do choose this route, make sure you include a comprehensive guide to security in the instructions you leave for your executor.


Dead Man’s Switch

This is an emerging solution which features an automated piece of software that sends routine emails to the user and waits for a reply.

If the reply isn’t received within a predetermined period, it will then automatically scour public records for a death certificate pertaining to the user.

If the user has died, their cryptoassets are transferred from their wallet to a nominated account.


Third-Party AI Keyholders

There are number of third-party AI services that are emerging which will manage your private keys in the event of death.

Again, it’s crucial that you leave clear instructions about how to access these details for executors to follow.