A basic economic property of any currency is the ability to hold its value in the long term. While Bitcoin's ability to hold its value is evident, since there is no central authority to control the flow of BitCoins and the current traditional method of transfer of value from a deceased person to their legal heir's depend a lot on a central authority, how could inheritance work with bitcoins. This is not a open ended question asking for opinions but an attempt into finding if the protocol or any other system has been attempted in this direction. This could include both planned transfers and those that are not planned for.

  • 2
    This idea and others have been explored. Look into smart contracts.
    – m1xolyd1an
    Nov 5, 2015 at 4:23
  • Related: bitcoin.stackexchange.com/q/38692/5406
    – Murch
    Nov 5, 2015 at 11:12
  • Answers for inheritance are already posted at
    – skaht
    Nov 6, 2015 at 5:06
  • @skaht: That's the same question I also linked. :)
    – Murch
    Nov 6, 2015 at 14:49
  • @Murch - I concur about bitcoin.stackexchange.com/questions/38692/…, I had a very close call where died for 18 minutes 18 days ago while bicycling. If the quadruple bypass did not succeed, "Points for Cold Wallet Inheritability" would have been exercised. Long story short, no need for lawyers for beneficiaries to inherit cryptocurrencies when using BIP 38 and Shamir's Shared Secret properly.
    – skaht
    May 7, 2016 at 11:49

1 Answer 1


nlocktime transactions are probably the closest thing you have at a protocol level.

Essentially, you can make a signed transaction that pays a bunch of your relatives on January 1st 2016. If you should die before then, the transaction goes through and they get their inheritance. If you are alive on December 31 2015, you would publish another transaction that invalidates the first transaction. If at this point, you want to continue with the same estate plan, you can publish another transaction for July 1st 2016 that pays out the inheritance. And again, on June 30th 2016, if you are alive you would publish another transaction that invalidates the TX about to be published on July 1st.

You can do this as long as you want and a similar transaction can be used in place of a trust (X gets some amount of bitcoins on their 21st birthday). You do have to be careful about this, as the bitcoins you're dispersing must not be moved in any way on the blockchain for the nlocktime transaction to work.

  • So essentially an app which could work to constantly create and invalidate transactions as you keep spending could be used till such time the protocol itself evolves to include this functionality, thanks
    – skv
    Nov 5, 2015 at 23:31
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    Yea, this probably isn't appropriate for a protocol level intervention. You can have software that does this pretty seamlessly. Actually might take a stab at making something =)
    – Jimmy Song
    Nov 5, 2015 at 23:33
  • Actually yes this specific method isnt appropriate at protocol level, happy that my question made you think in this direction
    – skv
    Nov 5, 2015 at 23:36
  • This is clever. Did you end up writing such a tool?
    – shx2
    Oct 20, 2016 at 9:12
  • One small detail I think you missed: "If you should die before then, the transaction goes through" -- somebody still needs to have access to the tx and publish it after the lock-time. You can't publish it beforehand and rely on miners to store it for you.
    – shx2
    Oct 20, 2016 at 9:15

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