The meteoric rise of cryptocurrencies and digital monetary assets has been unprecedented. Testators have been slow to adapt. Many crypto-holders do not adequately provide guidance for their future executors or estate administrators about their digital assets. These fiduciaries may be left in a position of not being sure whether the decedent left any valuable digital assets behind.
Even when the executor knows of the existence of crypto, they may be clueless about how many digital assets exist. Many experts, including Bitcoin, recommend that the most secure way to store cryptocurrency is in several accounts. This ensures that if any stranger gains access to an account, the rest of one's assets remain out of reach. Yet if not adequately organized in an estate plan, this may become an issue for executors tracking down the estate's assets.
In conducting their due diligence, a modern executor must take extra care to search for the possible existence of unknown cryptocurrencies. If you are an executor searching for the existence of “hard” or digital monetary assets, these are some ideas to hone your detective skills. A prudent fiduciary should examine the following locations in the hopes of discovering hidden digital assets.
Many Digital Wallets are tied to the decedent's main or alternative email addresses. If you have access to these emails, thoroughly search them looking for any sign of a digital wallet or crypto-currency communication. Furthermore, searching the names of the different cryptocurrencies, NFTs, and terms such as:
Although not great practice, some decedents may also keep files relevant to their cryptocurrency in their email. This includes drafts of their accounts, screenshots of transactions, or even passwords. This information can help prove the existence of digital currency. Look over evidence for any transactions that may have used unknown assets or currencies.
If you find evidence of a crypto exchange account (such as Binance and Coinbase), you may be able to contact these organizations to gain control of the account and the assets inside. They may hand control over once you prove the decedent's death, your appointment as their fiduciary, and legal entitlement to them.
Many users may keep their crypto-currency information in their secure password manager. If the decedent left behind access to these services, ensure that you check through their account to determine the existence (and passwords) of certain cryptos. If you are not sure if the decedent used a password manager, look through the other items on this list for terms such as:
Look through the saved files on all of the decedent's computers. Ensure that you examine all the hard drives in your possession, as oftentimes, the decedent may have written down the information on an older laptop or replaced the hard drives. These devices may be left in a storage unit alongside unrelated and seldom-used things. Ensure that you look through all of the deceased's belongings for the possibility of these drives.
Furthermore, these devices may have software installed that demonstrates the possession or interest in crypto. Look especially for exchanges, traders, mining, and payment software.
Carefully look through the financial statements and transfers for signs of purchasing or selling cryptocurrencies. This can include bank statements, taxes, credit card statements, invoices, and other documents.
The decedent's browser may hold the clues necessary to discover the existence of unknown digital assets. If you have access, the decedent's browser history may be a useful tool in finding the existence of certain digital accounts. The decedent may have also saved an important page to their favorites, allowing you to quickly unearth the asset's likely existence.
Check the decedent's social media presence. Those with cryptocurrencies often follow different pages, people, or companies to keep track of their digital assets. Check their Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts for any hint of a new asset. In some cases, it may be wise to check their correspondences with others.
Pour through all the papers left behind by the decedent. Oftentimes, people may write down their cryptocurrency passwords by hand. These essential papers may be found anywhere: next to the testamentary documents, inside safety deposit boxes, in the decedent's desk or filing cabinets, or somewhere unexpected with the decedent's other belongings.
Often, the decedent will have spoken to someone about their cryptocurrency investment or trades. Inquire with friends, family, and close colleagues to see whether they have any insight into the decedent's digital assets' status.