(Source: Forbes): Andrew Rossow – Imagine you get hit by a bus tomorrow and die, what would happen to all your digital assets? I’m talking your online accounts, including banking information, social media passwords, and stock portfolio information. Now, add your cryptocurrency–your Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ether and other purchases, alongside access to your private keys and digital wallet? Do your loved ones or other heirs have the right to possess and own these accounts?
When it comes to estate planning, individuals inevitably need to plan ahead for the future of their property and assets.
What Is Digital Inheritance?
When a loved one passes away, they may have more to their name than just physical assets or property–their footprint extends into cyberspace as well. Their presence on social media, investment sites, and other locations on the web, may have some monetary value, present or future. Family members and estate executors are left with piles of email messages, social media accounts, and other digital remains that may have significant personal or financial value. But, what happens when loved ones or executors have the required passwords, but have no clear authority to access or manage the deceased’s accounts? Ergo, the issue of digital inheritance in the 21st century.
The devil is in the details. It’s time to think about the reach of the deceased’s digital footprint and how far into cyberspace their presence reaches. It’s imperative to include your online accounts during the estate-planning process. Failure to plan ahead may prevent loved ones, friends, and even executors from accessing or recovering photos, videos, or even addressing online accounts. This also could lead to more daring crimes, such as post-mortem identity theft or fraud.
Online providers all handle accounts of deceased users very differently. However, some have started to help users plan how to handle their digital footprint after their passing. For example, Facebook introduced the legacy contact, someone the account holder chooses to look after or manage your account, once you pass on. Once the account is memorialized, the legacy contact has the ability to write a pinned post to the profile, or even delete the account entirely.
Federal and State Laws May Present Hurdles
Just because you know the password to access an account, doesn’t mean you have the clear authority or legal authority to do so. Under federal law, statutes like the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (“CFAA”) and The Stored Communications Act, governs unauthorized access to computers and electronic devices and limits providers’ ability to share account information with others.
Securing Assets In The Blockchain
Since the blockchain has emerged, this provides a new alternative to securing and encrypting one’s digital assets. You could basically take your entire safe’s worth of accounts, combine them into one file, and encrypt them with a private key on the blockchain. The next step is ensuring that your loved ones or legacies have the ability to access them after your passing. Planning for this during the estate process is dire–distributing shares of a “private key” among those designated in the legal document or administrator, could help ensure your loved ones receive your digital assets, pursuant to your wishes.
“As a father, my biggest question is, if something happened to me tomorrow, how could I ensure that my wife and children have access to my funds?” said SafeHaven co-founder, Logino Dujardin. SafeHaven was designed to address this very question. SafeHaven’s SHA Token, is designed to encrypt an individual’s assets on the blockchain, separating the keys or “shares” among those named in the will/legal document.
Nothing Is Unhackable
Crypto-exchanges are no stranger to data breaches and hacking attempts, as we have recently seen the breach of Coincheck, Mt. Gox, DAO, and Bitfinex, the past few months. When it comes to ensuring that funds and assets are secure, yet transparent, the best strategy is to divide and conquer.
Splitting up shares or portions of a key among heirs, beneficiaries, or legacies, is the best way to ensure funds remain protected on the blockchain. For example, when it comes to the secret recipe for Coca-Cola, rumor has it there are only two people who know the actual formula, and as such, are never allowed to be near each other. Same logic.
Whether it’s through a lawyer or blockchain, it’s time to start thinking about your assets. And your family. What’s your next move?