What happens to our digital remnants when we die has been a problem the likes of Facebook and Google have already had to grapple with—but digital currency like bitcoin makes the problem far more pressing.
Now, U.K.-based Coincover, founded just last year, has teamed up with Palo Alto-headquartered bitcoin storage company BitGo to offer bitcoin and cryptocurrency wills—hoping to solve the problem of what happens to your bitcoin when you die.
When access to a bitcoin wallet is gone, the bitcoin is gone forever. Coincover reckons around 4 million bitcoin (worth some $30 billion at current prices) has been lost as a result of people dying without letting their next of kin know how to access it.
And as bitcoin and crypto become more mainstream (eventually), the number of bitcoin being lost forever into the ether is only like to rise.
“As bitcoin becomes more mainstream and its value continues to increase, considering how to manage it as part of an estate planning exercise is becoming increasingly difficult,” said David Janczewski, Coincover’s cofounder and chief executive, adding that, with bitcoin, “there’s no bank manager to ask, and no one can break in for you.”
Earlier this year, in perhaps the worst case of posthumously lost bitcoin, the chief executive of Canadian bitcoin and crypto exchange Quadriga, Gerald Cotten, died suddenly while on vacation in India, leaving hundreds of millions of dollars in bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies apparently unrecoverable.
Though Coincover’s service does little more than hand out pseudo-wallet keys to people’s next of kin, bitcoin and cryptocurrency remains so clunky and tricky to use that most spouses, children, or parents of bitcoin holders would be unable to recover it on their own.
It may be that as crypto and digital asset services improve there won’t be a need for this kind of service, but for now those with extensive bitcoin and crypto holdings are understandably worried.