Digital Assets: Life and Death Have Both Gotten More Complicated

digital assetsEstate planning must now include intangible assets that didn’t exist just a few years ago, as well as those that have been around since people started owning private property. Today, says Forbes in the article “Estate Planning for Crypto And Other Digital Assets: What You Need to Know,” there are new kinds of property and new laws that govern them.

Some of the old rules still apply and you need a trust or a will. One of the things in that trust or will, needs to be naming a trustee or executor who will be in charge of ensuring that your assets are distributed, according to the wishes you state in your trust or will. When it comes to digital assets, things get a little tricky.

The hardest part of digital assets for many people, is how to give access to your digital property. The law has changed. If you own cryptocurrency, you’ll need to list your “crypto keys,” so your trustee or executor and your heirs can know what is in your estate and be able to access it.

You may need to educate them, so they understand what the assets are, the location of the keys and access control that you use for security. You probably know access control as PINS, passphrases, multisignature or timeclock requirements.

The challenge is, if you die and no one has access to your cryptocurrency keys, your heirs may never be able to access them. They’ll need to know what exchanges you use (Bitcoin, Ethereum, and others) and a list of the digital wallets you own for each.

Most heirs want to sell the crypto property quickly, since the currency is volatile. No one wants to be criticized for losing substantive value in the estate, because they didn’t move quickly enough.  They also don’t want to be brought to court, for failing to look out for the fiduciary interests of the estate.

You’ll need both the proper legal planning and technical planning.

Most states with laws about digital assets, have adopted a model that was written to include things that have not been invented yet.

Electronic signatures on trusts or wills, is another digital issue entering the estate planning arena. Most estate planning attorneys are not enthusiastic about this.  However, the change is coming, says an attorney on the drafting committee of the Uniform Law Commission.

National College of Probate Judges President Tamara Curry says she expects that judges are going to have to get up to speed on crypto assets in the next three to five years, since courts will become inundated with estates that include crypto currency and other digital assets.


Resource: Forbes (Aug. 14, 2018) “Estate Planning for Crypto And Other Digital Assets: What You Need to Know”

Get Help from a Wisconsin Probate and Estate Planning Attorney

The estate planning lawyers of Krause Donovan Estate Law Partners, LLC practice law in the areas of Probate, Wills, Estate Planning, and Trusts. We assist clients in and around Madison, Wisconsin with all matters related to estate planning, trusts, and probate matters. Our dedicated attorneys will even make house calls if you are unable to come to our office.

To attend a free estate planning workshop or to receive our client planner to assess your estate planning mindset, contact our office by calling (608) 268-5751 or use our online contact form.