update 13 October 2021

Passing On Cryptocurrency to Your Successor Before Death

As more and more people adopt cryptocurrencies for everyday use, their usage as a store of wealth and investments increases. An experience of more than 10 years and a total market cap of $685B as of 20th December 2020 highlights their increasing preference.

However, cryptocurrencies offer some complications when passing on to the next of kin in the event of death. Their digital nature, high level of privacy, and lack of a third party create this challenge. A person must learn how to take control of the allocation of their cryptos in the event of death.

Top Ways Of Passing Cryptos On

No one is ever certain of tomorrow. That’s the fragility of life. On passing on, the family of a crypto holder may discover the wealth saved by their deceased. But without his/her private keys, this wealth might be forever out of reach to them or anyone for that matter.

As such, there are certain ways a crypto user can ensure that on his/her death, the coins get to their preferred successors. The most credible ones include:

Updating One’s Cryptos On Their Wills

There are very few documents that are as important as one’s will. It is a document that sets out one’s wishes regarding distributing their wealth upon their death. Crypto’s should, therefore, be no exception when drafting the document.

The will should be regularly updated to reflect any changes on storage wallets to account for all the coins in a user’s investment portfolio.

Importance of  Private Keys

When drafting a will, one must ensure that they make the reclamation process simple. Due to blockchain’s relatively young nature, not most are well-versed in concepts such as public keys and private keys. The private Keys enable the accessing of crypto assets.

Furthermore, one’s private Keys should be secured in a safe place with clear instructions on who can access them. Such a step would help starve a phenomenon termed in law as “probate by a truck.” In such a situation, any potential heir could walk off with the private key by claiming that “the owner would have wanted me to have it.”

Entrusting a Commercial Service

A crypto holder could also entrust a commercial service with several key details about their crypto assets. These details include the private keys and the preferred recipient of these keys.

The service could be crypto exchange service providers, who usually run the trade in cryptos. Many of these platforms usually have a policy governing the transfer of cryptos to the next of kin.

While commercial services provide a means of transferring digital assets to successors, they don’t notify the next of kin of their existence. This is because they lack the means to track a user’s well being. It is up to the asset holder to inform his/her successors on the existence of the cryptos.

Also, to further safeguard the transfer, this system better works with the existence of a will. It will notify potential heirs of the coins’ existence and state the preferred successor to prevent the emergence of “probate by a truck.” It also prevents fraudsters from making away with the wealth using false death claims.

This form of passing on only works for assets still in the exchange platform. Those already moved to other wallets are inaccessible and may need other ways to pass on.

Separate Storage Of Crypto Inheritance Information

A person may privately store the details regarding their cryptos safely. These may be on devices such as flash disks, memory cards, or even on documented papers.

These stored details regarding the volume of one’s crypto assets, where they are being stored, and what the private keys are may be accessed by the successors on passing on.

The owner of the assets must inform his/her successor of the coins’ existence and where the information is stored. Files such as private keys are easily dismissible by potential successors. Care must, however, be taken to inform only the successors. 

Their characters must also be considered when discussing the amount of information; some may make off with wealth. The data should also be frequently updated to ensure all crypto assets are accounted for. The process of reclamation should be simplified and clearly stated.

Moving Assets To Paper Wallets

After transactions are done on exchange platforms, cryptos may be moved to crypto wallets for storage. The most secure of these are cold wallets, which don’t have internet access and can’t be hacked. These include hardware wallets and paper wallets.

Paper wallets are documents containing one’s private keys and addresses. As such, a successor can access the cryptos to gain their possession.

The information must be passed on to the successors regarding how to access these paper wallets. Care must be taken, however, to ensure that only the successors have this information. The character of the successor needs to be assessed before sharing the information.

The current holder must ensure that all the cryptos are promptly moved to paper wallets on completing every crypto transaction. These wallets should then be stored, and the information on their accessibility updated as soon as possible. Such steps will minimize the loss of coins not yet transferred.


The intangible nature of cryptos, coupled with their high privacy levels and the lack of a trusted third party, does pose a challenge when passing them on to successors. But as outlined, some clear steps and processes can enable this to be done.

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Each of the named ways of passing them on is quite feasible and may prevent wealth loss on death. But the best action is creating a hybrid system by combining most of these listed ways. It ensures that as much of one’s digital assets as is possible will be passed on to a person’s successors when they die.

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