How to leave Bitcoins to your family in case you die

What you need:

  1. A nice box that can be locked, with a distinctive mark, like a giant yellow flower on the lid.
  2. Pen and paper
  3. An envelope
  4. Two secure off-site locations.
  5. A bootable USB thumb drive running Tails, which comes with Electrum preinstalled.
  6. A dumb printer, which means a printer with no network connectivity and no internal storage.

Creating the offline seed

  1. Remove all network connectivity from your computer. Unplug the network cable if one is attached, disable wifi if you used that.
  2. Shutdown the computer and boot it from the Tails live USB system.
  3. Start Electrum and create a new wallet.
  4. Copy the 12 word recovery seed into an empty plain-text file. Save this file as seed.txt.
  5. Print out the master public key and its QR code on paper. You can later import that into an Electrum installation on your smartphone and/or computer that‘s connected to the Internet.
  6. Create a strong password and write it on two pieces of paper. You can use this combination of command line tools to create a strong passphrase that is also easy to copy by hand:

    head -c 16 /dev/random | base64 | tr '[:upper:]' '[:lower:]' | tr -d '[:punct:]'

    These pieces of paper containing the pasword will now be called password1 and password2.
  7. Encrypt the seed symmetrically with the password you just created and ASCII-armor it. You can use this command, issued in the same directory as the file is located, to do so:

    gpg -a -v --output seed.txt.asc --symmetric --cipher-algo AES256 --s2k-mode 3 --s2k-digest-algo SHA512 --s2k-count 65600000 seed.txt

  8. Print the encrypted ASCII-armored seed on paper twice. These pieces of paper will now be called seed1 and seed2.
  9. Write instructions on paper. This piece of paper will be called instructions. These instructions are:
    1. To open the box in case of your death
    2. How to create a system from which it is possible to decrypt the encrypted seed
    3. How to decrypt the seed
    4. How to use the seed in a cold storage system
  10. Put seed1 and instructions in the box.
  11. Put password1 and a message to open the box in an envelope.
  12. Store password2 somewhere secure, but not together with the box. Somewhere offsite, like a safe deposit box.
  13. Store seed2 also somewhere secure, preferably off-site, for example another safe deposit box.
  14. Give the envelope to the relative who you want to be the heir of your bitcoins and tell them to only open it after you're dead.
  15. Write your will and state that you want that person to be the heir of the box with the giant yellow flower.

If you on a later date change how you store your bitcoins, you can do so. Just update the instructions and encrypt the new seed/private key with the same passphrase.

Here is an example, just to give you an idea how this would look. The seed is:

awful judge jar dizzy ship advice spawn beef false time cute chapter

The password is:


And the resulting ASCII-armored encrypted seed is a text-file containing this. I also manually added an example-line containing all characters above the actual data, to make it easier to distinguish between O‘s as in „Oscar“ and 0‘s as in Zero and other easily confused characters:



As you can see, typing this into an empty text-file in order to decrypt it using the above passphrase, is very manageable.

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