An interesting story came out earlier this year when the death of a young Colorado man left his family with the daunting task of sorting out his state. Only for them to discover that their beloved had been investing in bitcoin, a digital currency which cost as low as $13/BTC back in 2013 and recently cruised past the $14,000 mark.
The grieving family was in for a fortune – but only if they could find and access this little crypto treasure.
Bitcoin is a digital currency secured with some unbreakable cryptography, an attribute makes bitcoin a great medium to store wealth. However, there’s one downside to it. When the owner dies, the digital fortune goes off map, rotting behind a piece of code for good. And this is probably the biggest problem for the relatives of those putting resources into this crypto worth about $245,355,661,320 at the time of writing this article.
Bitcoins are stored in a virtual wallet. Every wallet utilizes a string of arbitrary characters called “public key,” visible to anybody, as an address for sending and receiving the digital currency. The “private key” enables the owner to access the wallet’s contents.
In the event that a Bitcoin owner passes away without passing on the private key, his beneficiaries may find his wallet just to realize that they will never access the riches inside. To avoid this, the owner just needs to ensure that somebody gets a duplicate of the private key by recording it or securing it on a hard drive.
But some of these strategies accompany their own particular risks. Suzanne Walsh, a wills and estate attorney with Murtha Cullina, says agents and beneficiaries may fail to perceive a private Bitcoin key for what it is and wind up discarding it.
Putting in a nutshell, the only way for bitcoins to be passed on to someone is if they are listed in a will or the owner discloses the private key to someone they want to have their coins. If neither of the two happens, then bitcoins are susceptible to what attorneys call “probate by truck”— where beneficiaries walk off with the assets by claiming that “he would have wanted me to have it.”
Story credits: fortune.com