Five years ago, cryptocurrency was probably not on your radar. Today, it may be an important investment in your portfolio. You could even own some nonfungible tokens (NFTs), which are powered by the same blockchain-based technology. Despite the dizzying fluctuations in the value of these assets, you should ensure that they are included in your estate plan so you can preserve them for your heirs.
Cryptocurrency, which is digital money, is exhibiting stability as part of the global financial landscape, even though the value of individual coins (units of cryptocurrency) has been notoriously volatile. The overall market hit $3 trillion in value in 2021, only to lose $2 trillion in value so far in 2022. Emerging from the ashes of the 2008 financial disaster, cryptocurrency is likely to retain its status as an investment option because its holders enjoy freedom from government and bank control.
This advantage can become a drawback when it comes to preserving cryptocurrency. Before you consider including cryptocurrency in an estate plan, it is imperative that you hang on to your digital cash on a day-to-day basis. This involves preserving the passwords and digital wallets (storage units) connected to your cryptocurrency. This will avoid a disastrous situation like the one that befell a Welsh man who accidentally threw away half a billion dollars’ worth of Bitcoin.
Another important consideration is that the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) considers cryptocurrency to be property rather than currency. That means it is subject to capital gains tax. Whether the owner holds it for longer than twelve months determines whether the IRS will assess short-term or long-term capital gains tax. Exchanging cryptocurrency for fiat currency (a country’s official money) is a taxable event, as is exchanging one kind of cryptocurrency for another (e.g., exchanging Bitcoin for Ether). If you are in the business of selling or creating cryptocurrency (called “mining”), ordinary income tax rates will apply.
Contact us to review your estate plan if you have acquired any cryptocurrency assets. We can help you keep preserve your digital assets as part of your overall estate plan while maintaining your privacy.
 D.T. Max, Half a Billion in Bitcoin, Lost in the Dump, New Yorker (Dec. 6, 2021), https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/12/13/half-a-billion-in-bitcoin-lost-in-the-dump.