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By Matthew Phillip Lehman (www.millers.co.za)   With the recent rise in popularity in Bitcoin, and other crypto currencies, as a form of investment more and more people are asking how one ensures that their crypto currency investments will be transferred to their heirs if and when they die. For those who are unsure as to what exactly crypto currencies are, put simply they are a digital payment network where the crypto currency is stored and transferred. Crypto currencies are normally expressed as a digital token, like a Bitcoin, that you can send or receive electronically. Unlike traditional physical currency though, we are able to divide crypto currencies up to 8 decimal places, for example the smallest amount of a Bitcoin that can be transferred is 0.00000001 Bitcoin’s. The value of a crypto currency will also fluctuate much in the same way that the value of stocks change based on bidding. Crypto currencies are protected by powerful encryptions to ensure that your wealth is stored safely. This level of encryption also creates the risk that when you die, your crypto currency will be out of reach for your heirs. Most people store their crypto currencies in a virtual wallet which uses a string of random characters called a “public key”. The public key is visible to anyone as an address for receiving the crypto currency. A separate “private key” however allows the owner access to the wallet’s contents. This means that when you die, your heirs may discover your virtual wallet, but will be unable to gain access thereto without the private key. The easiest way to ensure that your crypto currency can be transferred to your heirs is to ensure that someone has a copy of the private key by writing it down, storing it on a memory drive or entrusting it with a company or a trusted financial advisor or attorney who can give it to your family after your death. It is also a good idea to formally bequeath your crypto currency in your will and identify how to access a copy of your private key. Although it won’t form part of the physical assets of your estate to be administered, this will help ensure that there is no uncertainty as to whom you wanted to gain access to your wallet after your death. It’s also important to bear in mind that, not all private keys are stored online in a virtual wallet either. Some people choose to store their private keys on an encrypted physical device, which works much like a password protected USB memory stick. Other people even choose to print out physical vouchers that have a QR code on them that can be scanned and then transferred to a wallet. I would suggest discussing your Bitcoin portfolio with your estate planner with a view to formally providing therefore in your will.  

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