What about the bitcoin of a person who dies?

The security protocols and encryption that protect this cryptocurrency represent an obstacle to recovering entire fortunes in the case of an inheritance, for example.

Five years ago, Matthew Moody died during an observation flight when the two-seater plane he was traveling in crashed during a flight over a canyon in Chico, California.

His father, Michael Moody, knew that his 26-year-old son had been mining bitcoins – each of which is worth thousands of dollars today – but he had no idea how many he had or how to find them. Michael Moody has spent the last three years looking for the answers.

“My son was, in fact, one of the first people to mine [bitcoins],” said Moody, a retired software engineer. “He used his computer at home to mine bitcoins when it could really be done that way and he had several, we thought.”

The decentralized and unregulated nature of bitcoin means that without the keys to access your child’s virtual wallet, hosted by blockchain.info, Moody has no way to access the funds. And it is almost impossible to know if a person is sitting on a fortune or just a few cents, since the wallets can contain an unlimited number of unique addresses or identifiers, with bitcoins assigned to each one. Without knowing all the addresses, it is not possible to locate each currency.

Blockchain.info did not respond to requests for comment on this note. “There is no authority that can be appealed to fix this,” said Nolan Bauerle, research director at CoinDesk cryptocurrency analysis website, about the fact that a person’s bitcoin reserves become inaccessible after die. “Those coins would be abandoned.”


Moody says that young entrepreneurs, who are not familiar with emerging digital currencies, should be better informed about the necessary steps to take to ensure that their investments are adequately guaranteed, both for themselves and their future heirs.

Offers of currencies

In the 90s, someone’s digital heritage could only have meant email accounts, but today that extends to passwords, encrypted backups of devices, photo files, personal data stored by search engines, advertisers, and networks. social, and now, cryptocurrencies. Issues related to inheritances include initial offers of currencies, the process of raising money from investors by offering them virtual “chips” instead of stocks. In 2017, about US $ 3,500 million was raised worldwide through the initial cryptocurrency offers (ICO), according to data compiled by CoinDesk.

The relatively incipient practice of conducting an ICO means that the legislation has not yet been updated and, consequently, questions about what happens to the legitimate tokens of a person at death are numerous. But after a series of lawsuits, US lawmakers will soon decide whether a chip acquired in an ICO will be considered the same as an action purchased through an IPO.

Bitcoin security

Some companies are beginning to take preventive measures. CoinBase is a custodial service, which contains the private keys of a client of the kind that, if lost, would make the bitcoins permanently inaccessible-and as such, can provide a certain level of security in case of the death of a person. The company requests documents such as a death certificate and testament to transfer the assets.

It is not a solution that some enthusiasts wish to use since the idea that another person has custody of bitcoins is contrary to the nature of decentralization and control of the user that aroused the interest in the anonymous currency in the first place.