May 6, 2023•748 words
Use your own discretion with this one (as with all advice). I welcome your feedback; let's tear this apart.
This is another popular conversation for obvious reasons. One way emerging involves the assistance of a third party, a company you'd pay like Casa. Though this requires some level of trust in them, I think they've taken reasonable steps to remove themselves as a potential point of failure, and all such planning requires trust, even with lawyers traditionally, so this may be a fine option for many if you want to pay for the service (may very well be worth it, IDK), but this is not the method I'm getting at here.
One novel and free way that I am exploring which may make such planning more accessible for more people is the following: Upon your death, after a pre-determined amount of time in which you have not logged into your gmail account (3 months is the earliest), you can set Google's Inactive Account Manager to send an email (or multiple) to your beneficiary's (most frequently used) email (gmail?) telling them to check their more secure (but maybe less used?) end-to-end encrypted protonmail email account, where you will have sent them another email (PGP-encrypted text only - do not trust Google with clear-text) outlining where or how they might access your ₿itcoin, offline.
That's basically it.
And now the disclaimers: As with all such inheritance planning methods now emerging, I imagine this is not absolutely fool-proof. For starters, it requires a working knowledge of PGP for both you and your beneficiaries (a learning curve indeed perhaps). And that is, an encrypted message only, DO NOT trust Google with sensitive clear-text! I don't know of anyone who has yet relied on this method. However, I have walked through an actual experiment of how it would play out and it seemed to work flawlessly.
Another disclaimer among many: Clearly, this requires putting trust in Google and that alone should make you ask yourself some hard questions: Do you trust Google (or more aptly, any one rogue employee) not to attempt to decrypt your PGP key themselves, hard as it is? Moreover, PGP doesn't have 'forward-secrecy' either, so consider the potential to decrypt PGP more easily in the future (quantum computing?). Would anything about your gmail address itself (your name?) draw a target or attention as to who you are or what you might have? Maybe the gmail account you set this up from is completely new, random, and never publicized? (But then, are you logging in every 3 months to keep it fresh?) For obvious reasons, this also means your gmail account should have an extremely strong password (Are you using a password manager?) and app-based or Yubi key 2FA enabled (not SMS).
More thoughts: If your beneficiaries have access to your online accounts upon your death by any other means, presumably they could just login and see the future messages in your Inactive Account Manager settings within 3 months... and well, by the same token then you also could have just left a PGP-encrypted message in your Drafts folder or something, and tell them to look for that, but.. I wouldn't. Or you could not use Google at all, but encrypt a PGP message, print it out, and give it to them in your papers via a lawyer. They would then have to ("gasp") retype it all or I imagine by then, simply scanning the document, a text reader of the future could pull out the text before decryption (can do so now I think with PDF Expert.) I digress.
Note: I am only suggesting the possibility of encrypting a message about WHERE or HOW to find your seed phrase, offline, in real life. (And certainly, you can further complicate it with information that only your beneficiary would know, like a treasure map of sorts. Or separating the seed phrase from an added BIP-39 passphrase.) I am not advising you to type the actual seed phrase online. Even encrypted. In fact, I am actively advising you NOT to type your seed phrase on a computer, ever! That is the only thing in this whole section here that I am actually advising. Never type your seed phrase on a computer. I wouldn't even say it out loud.
Again, I welcome your feedback and the poking of holes in this idea. And if you do try this, I invite you to let me know; we can talk it through if you want.