Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Thursday, December 26, 2019

His Body Was a Key. What is Yours?

BitcoinWhen Duke William X died in 1137, his teenage daughter Eleanor became the duchess of Aquitaine, Gascony and Poitou, spanning roughly half of the land mass of modern day France. Whoever married her would gain those lands, and in that day suitors were not above kidnapping a bride. So Eleanor was kept locked in a castle until the right husband came along, since she was essentially the key to owning those lands.

When Gerry Cotton passed away this past January, no one could have guessed that his body (or more accurately, what he held in his mind) was the key to $137,000,000, or $250,000,000 according to some reports. He was the founder of Canada’s largest bitcoin exchange, QuadrigaCX, and it has come to light that he was the only person that knew of the password to unlock a PC to access the funds. Cotton died at only 30 in India of Crohn's disease. Rumors that he may have faked his death have lead to investors demanding that the body be exhumed for DNA testing.

This dreadful situation can be used as an example on why everyone should maintain a digital estate plan. Many bank accounts can be accessed easier and quicker digitally, and there are other digital assets to consider. Leaving a list of passwords with an estate attorney or professional representative may make things go smoother after your death.

See Theodore F. Claypoole, His Body Was a Key. What is Yours?, National Law Review, December 26, 2019.

Special thanks to Jim Hillhouse (Professional Legal Marketing (PLM, Inc.)) for bringing this article to my attention.


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This would have been more helpful had the author indicated how one might yet marry Eleanor.

Posted by: Joseph W. Mooney | Dec 27, 2019 8:43:20 AM

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