In crypto, there is a lot of talk about losing assets due to negligence and hacking, but planning for the unexpected–which is just as important in keeping value away from the abyss–is rarely mentioned. As you know, unlike like traditional assets like stocks, bonds, real estate, and savings accounts, no bank or government entity can help your family claim ownership of your crypto assets. Conventional financial accounts typically go to the closest of kin, even without a will in place. While it may take more effort and reduce the estate, your family will ultimately receive some portion of what was yours. However, since no authority has command of your digital funds, your family would be out of luck without your electronic wallet and its associated keys. It is therefore vital that you have a plan to give your loved ones access in the case of a calamity.
I am not sure if there are defined best methods yet for these arrangements in the blockchain space. However, I thought of a few ways we could at least start.
Here’s what I did:
- Trusted person(s): Lawyer?
- USB Drives
- Home Safe
- Fire/water precaution
1. The first thing you need to consider is a beneficiary or executor of your will.
This person should have unquestionable trust and goodwill towards you. They should have sound mind, clear judgement, and be selfless, at least in your regards. This person could be a family member, spouse, or best friend.
If you do not have a suitable candidate, you may choose to divide your login credentials between two parties, one of which could be an attorney that will carry out your will. Your password could be given to your lawyer or another trusted party without compromising your account so long as you keep the wallet elsewhere. If you go the attorney route, a will could be used as the delivery method if such an unfortunate event arises.
2. The second thing you will need is a USB drive, or several.
Really, this is crypto 101. It is vitally important to have secure physical backups of your wallet just in case you forget, lose, or fry your hardware. As you know, there is a tremendous amount of fear of the abyss when dealing with crypto and you WILL lose your crypto in either one of two ways if you do not take precautions: getting hacked or through negligence when you forget or lose your keys.
If you do not have your information backed up on several USB drives and removed off your computer’s hard drive, go ahead and do it now. I can wait.
Remember what crypto the bear said: only you can avoid lost wallets with back ups
As a side note, using a hardware wallet like the Ledger Nano S is the safest way to access your crypto in case of a compromised computer or network. However, for the purpose of this article, your USB drive will suffice as a way to ensure someone you trust may claim your account if you’re unable to. If you do nothing else in this article, please follow this advice.
You should also consider printing out paper wallets and QR codes with your public and private keys as well. Most digital wallets have this option built in, such as MyEtherWallet or MetaMask. Store these as you would your USB drives.
3. You may want to go as far as I did and get a safe.
Get a wall safe and hide it behind a picture in your room. It’s a little over the top for the job of holding several USB drives, some instructions, paper wallets and personal letters, but if you are like me and have always wanted a wall safe, this is a great opportunity :).
Whether you live with your love ones or you live alone, it is important to have a physical safe in your home that contains all or at least a majority of your login information. Rather than trust that your chosen agent who may know nothing about digital assets to keep your credentials safe, it may be wise to instead keep it in a vault that will only be opened if the occasion should so arise. That way, the person you trust doesn’t accidentally cause a breach or lose it.
4. Also make it safe that is fire/moisture resistant.
The next greatest conceivable threat to our crypto’s safety is fire and water damage. Be sure to place your USB drives in fire resistant bags and position your safe so that it is less likely to come into contact with water during flooding. Throw some desiccant in there for good measure as well, especially if you do not plan to use the vault often.
5. It’s not just about investing; it’s about protecting your assets.
In finances and insurance, we talk about two things constantly: risk and investment. I enjoy my work as a financial planner and life insurance salesman because convincing people about the importance of planning makes a difference. Like those in crypto, there is a general tendency among the folks I encounter to focus on investing more than risk management. Most people put money into things like 401k, where they are exposed to market risk, but lack to protect themselves with low cost solutions like adequate life or disability insurance. Savings do little for a family when a primary income source is lost that they have come to rely on. Mortgages, car loans, and school expenses still all remain. The heartache of losing a loved one is magnified by a financial crisis – working when we most need to grieve and grieving when we most need to work. Those left behind are often forced to pick up extra work to get by or lower their standard of living all together.
If you lose your access to your crypto wallet, it’s gone forever. Likewise, if you do not make plans to help your family retrieve your assets when you’re no longer around, then it will probably be gone forever. You don’t have to go as far as I did, but I urge to you think seriously about what would happen if you could not be there tomorrow. How would your family fare without you for the next 40 years? Do you have enough life insurance to make sure your spouse doesn’t have to get a second job to keep the house or so the kids can go to school? Do you have your wallet backed up? Is it secured and in the hands of trusted peoples? Will it be unclaimed when you’re not around?
6. Be proactive even if you don’t feel like you have much.
Remember, BTC was less than a dollar six years ago. Plan who you want to give the results of your hard work to so that your absence is less difficult. Your enormous bag of electronic token may mean nothing if it cannot be accessed in the case of an emergency. Don’t wait until it’s too late.
Cryptos, I hope that this article started your thinking about these important issues.
Thank you for tuning in.
Please drop me a line below if you any other suggestions, comments or concerns.
Bitcoin Safe image via Adobe Stock