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I see on [bitaddress][1] you can generate a split wallet. That's where multiple parties have to each submit their "share" keys to generate the combined private key.

So the hard part, the math, has already been done.

But, I'd like a system that has the following advantages if possible:

  • No lawyers / legal contract required
  • No trust required among the heirs
  • If an heir dies after me but before the distribution, the surviving heirs can divide the inheritance equally
  • While I'm alive I can freely use my bitcoin, and move it around, without worrying very much or at all that my heirs won't be able to find it
  • My heirs can't see my private keys while I'm alive
  • Non-heirs can't ever see my private keys
  • My heirs can find what they need to get started after I'm gone, without too much trouble

It's probably going to have to be a combination of a physical safe, a physical key, and the online stuff and software.

I'm willing to make the assumption that my heirs will know beforehand how to initiate the process with the physical key, and that they aren't going to take their inheritance early by force (e.g., breaking into my house).

I'm also willing to use a dead man switch website. That might be like an email that I must respond to every month or else it emails all of them their keys / instructions. Note I don't know what that website might be.

Has anyone thought through a process? Even a different process that doesn't have all the advantages I'm looking for might give me ideas.

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To meet your requirement of freely using your bitcoins and moving them around, a deterministic wallet such as Electrum may suit well. In that case, you'd just need to share the wallet seed (and some details on how to use it), perhaps with half of the seed stored in each of 2 secure facilities to protect against theft.

That doesn't meet some of the other requirements, such as handling an equal split, but writing a will could handle that part reasonably effectively (though still with some chance of human error or fraud).

  • I voted up because a seed key, like a BIP39 is probably part of the solution – toddmo Nov 1 '17 at 18:11
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Helpful websites:

Dead Man Switch is not free at the level of service a typical person would need, but the fee is a $20 lifetime fee, so it's cheaper than what it would cost me to build the same mechanism. It will send different messages to different recipients if I don't respond to 3 keep alive messages within a 60 day window. This website doesn't deal with bitcoins, however, so it can't automate the actual distribution.

Passphrase allows a document to be stored online with a password to decrypt it. This could be the will itself and you could have a slightly different document for each heir with a different passphrase. I don't know how secure it really is, but it's really easy to use.

bitaddress needs to be stored locally! Just go there and do Save As.... Unplug your internet before using it. It has split wallets and paper wallets, which are perhaps part of the solution.

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