What is Vault12?
Vault12 is the first personal crypto security solution to secure, store and protect crypto assets, wherever they happen to be.
Unlike conventional approaches that rely on centralized cloud storage or on local storage, Vault12 for the first time brings together the decentralized and distributed power of blockchain. By harnessing a customer's trusted personal network, crypto assets are encrypted, split, and distributed on a mesh of mobile devices, dramatically reducing the chances of hacks or accidental loss.
What problem does Vault12 solve?
In the last two years alone, almost three billion dollars has been stolen from cryptocurrency exchanges. Because crypto is both difficult and cumbersome to store securely, people often leave their crypto assets in the cloud, where it becomes a huge collective target for hackers.
The problem is not just theft from the cloud – but simply accidents - seed phrase losses, natural disasters, damages, and device failures all result in unacceptable risks for these precious assets.
Vault12 Company Overview
What do I do if my phone is lost or stolen?
The Vault12 system is designed so that crypto assets that are put into a digital Vault do not reside on the owner's mobile device and that the entire digital Vault can be recovered, should the mobile device be lost, damaged, or stolen.
To restore your digital Vault onto a new phone, you simply contact your minimum number of Guardians and ask them to confirm a Vault restore, which they can do easily by opening their Vault12 app. You can see this in action in the following video.
Where can I go for more information?
To get more detailed information and see the Vault12 app in action, please go to the Resources section of the website.
What if my Guardian loses their phone?
Should one of your Guardian's lose their phone, your Vault will not be affected and you always have the ability to replace a Guardian at any time.
In general, should a Guardian be out of contact - phone is off, app hasn't been opened - for an extended period of time, your Vaut12 app will notify you, in fact, you can always see the status of your Guardians at any time by going to the Vault dashboard.
The only scenario in which there could be a risk to your Vault is if the number of active Guardians falls below the minimum threshold needed to unlock assets or restore a Vault. The app will alert you so that you can avoid this circumstance. However, as an overall strategy, you should consider having many Guardians, spread out geographically, and also assign some personal devices as Guardians that you can keep securely. This way, you always have enough Guardians to handle unlock requests and Vault recoveries and to replace any Guardians as needed.
Is your project open sourced?
The Vault Cryptostorage Platform has been designed so that key elements useful to developers and operators are available open-sourced.
Specifically, the ZAX Relay Network, infrastructure that ensures Vault owners and Guardians are connected for the transfer of approval requests and the distribution of shards, is available on Github
In the future, other elements of the platform will be released as open-source libraries.
If I'm already using the Vault12 app and have a paid subscription can I activate Digital Inheritance and designate a beneficiary?
Yes - for all paid subscribers there is an additional option in the settings menu.
Is a Will still required?
Yes, in general, a Will is required to legally set forth what happens to the estate of the owner when they pass. Given that law regarding inheritance differs across jurisdictions, the Vault12 Digital Inheritance app does not try to replace the role of a legal written Will. It is recommended that the written Will be one of the documents deposited in the Vault, after legal consultation.
Can this be used for a Living Trust?
Yes. A living trust is a legal document, or trust, created during an individual's lifetime where a designated person, the trustee, is given responsibility for managing that individual's assets for the benefit of the eventual beneficiary. A living trust is designed to allow for the easy transfer of the trust creator or settlor's assets while bypassing the often complex and expensive legal process of probate. Living trust agreements designate a trustee who holds legal possession of assets and property that flow into the trust.
If I use Vault12 Digital Inheritance do I need to consult a lawyer?
Yes. A lawyer should always be consulted in the matter of estates, trusts, and wills, as typically a person's digital assets will form only a part of their estate, and laws governing inheritance can be different in different places. What Vault12 Digital Inheritance does is eliminate many of the risks associated with cataloging and transmitting details of digital assets from owner to beneficiary, in a manner not possible by traditional means.
Can the beneficiary be the executor or trustee?
Yes, in fact if the designated Guardian is also the executor or trustee, then from a process perspective, everything is streamlined, and access to the digital assets can go directly to the person managing the estate.
Can there be more than one beneficiary?
An owner can only designate one beneficiary. The goal of this is to grant access to digital assets to one person. How those assets are then distributed would be covered by the written legal Will and other documents. Should the owner change their mind, and designate a different beneficiary, then the old beneficiary loses their ability to initiate access to the assets, and only the latest declaration of the beneficiary would be valid.
What happens if the family of the owner doesn't like the beneficiary?
The beneficiary is designated by the Vault owner and presumably reflects the wishes of the owner. The signed declaration clearly states who the beneficiary is and when they were designated. If there is a dispute, the beneficiary can present the declaration to lawyers to help resolve the dispute.
What happens if the beneficiary dies? What about if the beneficiary dies after the owner but before assets have been recovered?
Until an inheritance event takes place, the owner is still in full control of his Vault and there are no assets actually given to the beneficiary until such an event. Should the beneficiary predecease the owner, there are a number of options available:
a. The owner can designate a new beneficiary.
b. The owner, as a part of their inheritance planning, can disclose the contact details of their Guardians in their Will, and subsequently, when the time comes to access the assets, the executor or other legal representative can 'follow the will' of the deceased owner and instruct the original Guardians to initiate a restoration of the assets.
c. If the original Vault owner has passed away and the beneficiary has also passed away before accessing the assets, but the original owner's phone OR other Guardian devices are accessible, then the assets can be recovered via a simple recovery request in the Vault12 app by directly accessing the devices if Guardians or relatives in possession of these devices consider this to be a prudent course of action.
In simple terms, Vault12 Digital Inheritance makes the ironclad, impenetrable access rights of crypto assets a bit less of a binary "black and white" option and allows a small group of carefully selected Guardians to make a decision in the case of a totally unforeseen circumstance based on social context rather than pure mathematical cryptography.
Is it possible to set up a chain of beneficiaries?
It is not possible to set up a cascading chain of beneficiaries at this time, however, there are approaches laid out above that can cater to a number of scenarios where the original beneficiary is unable to follow through on accessing the assets.
- How is Vault12 notified when the Vault owner passes?
- How long would the entire process of setting up a beneficiary take?
- What is the technology that powers Vault12's secure platform? How is it safe?
Does the Beneficiary have to be a Vault12 paid subscriber?
The beneficiary can be any trusted member of your circle of friends and family. However, when they receive the digital assets, they will want to put them in a Vault, which can be obtained under a 'Free" plan. Once they have done that and wish to also designate a beneficiary they will in fact need to switch to a paid plan.
Do you have any personal stories from users you can share regarding crypto-assets being lost (or recovered) after a loved one's death?
There is a steady drumbeat of these stories happening with worrisome regularity:
- In December 2018, Gerald Cotten, the founder of the bitcoin trading exchange, died (under somewhat mysterious circumstances) resulting in the loss of $250M and the exchange going bankrupt. Gerald was only 30 years old and had not created an inheritance plan, nor were instructions of how to access the centralized assets ever found. Read more.
- In April 2018, Matthew Mellon, heir to Mellon family banking fortune and former chairman of the NY Republican Party finance committee, and cryptocurrency proponent died. Prior to his death, he held an estimated $1B in Ripple (XRP) - all of these remains were inaccessible as he left no instructions, even though he protected the cryptocurrency via cold storage in multiple locations around the US in different people's names. Read more.
- In 2017, an unidentified young crypto investor in Colorado died with a small fortune in cryptocurrency held in a Coinbase account. The family, however, had no access to the account and eventually had to petition Coinbase directly. Eventually, the assets were released after a lengthy process. If the account holder had not been a U.S. Citizen, this would have been a much more complicated process.
Our CEO and co-founder, having spent time working on early crypto industry deals at Andreessen Horowitz (one of the first VCs in the blockchain space), it became very clear there was no end-to-end solution for backing up and securing seed phrases and private keys, but also that in the event of death or incapacitation, there was no mechanism to directly pass on assets to a designated individual-- that is the genesis of Vault12.
One of the painful consequences of such "death events" in the crypto economy is that they permanently and forever remove large amounts of coins from circulation, reducing the total available resources for all future users. Left unchecked, this might develop into a far bigger issue for the crypto industry as a whole since right, when the industry enters mainstream use in the coming years and decades, the supply of resources available to new entrants, as the industry enters mainstream use in the coming years and decades, the supply of resources available to new entrants will continue to shrink.
The law on this may vary state-to-state and country-to-country. Is Digital Inheritance targeted at US citizens or everyone? Regardless, even if there is a statement in a will, the law is not always clear on digital assets; how would you handle the news of a guardian absconding with someone else's crypto?
First of all, on the technical side, a single bad-faith Guardian simply cannot access anything at all due to the nature of Shamir's cryptography that bears the rare distinction of being "information-theoretic secure" cryptography - meaning, one bad faith Guardian, hypothetically having even an infinite number of quantum computers, cannot retrieve a single byte of the owner's information. The owner's assets come back to existence, if and only if, the threshold number of Guardians approve a specific action - such as the bequest of Digital Inheritance.
There are many safeguards built into the system, plus the law of the land. First of all, a designated Guardian should be picked carefully and can be replaced at any point. Secondly, the owner is notified when inheritance is activated by a beneficiary, so they have time to veto the request if it comes inappropriately. Thirdly, the other Guardians are asked to confirm the transfer of assets, which creates an additional hurdle - and without such approval from each device under Guardian control, it cannot be cryptographically re-assembled. Lastly, the law of the land still applies, and should any person in the circle of trust conduct fraud to obtain the assets, they are liable for criminal prosecution.
Obviously, laws vary from state to state and country to country, yet compliance with these laws is easy thanks to a well-established legal industry. Where this system breaks down is that if one follows the traditional process of establishing will and inheritance that includes digital assets, it exposes these assets to a massive risk from all personnel working at these legal offices. In other words, the security of crypto assets secured via legacy law offices will be only as secure as the security level of the weakest employee with access to that office. Unlike other types of assets, there will be no recourse if a random contractor (or even an intern) in a law office copies the content of a hard drive (with all the client's crypto-asset records), which can be nefariously used for self-benefit months and years later. Legacy systems of transferring digital assets are disastrously insecure.
While users can still leverage existing legal infrastructure to establish their will and inheritance paperwork, the Vault12 app provides a complete solution around how such inherited assets can be received by the beneficiary without exposing them to the massive amount of risk just by doing so. In general, securing crypto in one of our Vaults is an excellent place to store legal documents such as wills and trusts created by the Vault owner, that the beneficiary can receive along the way to start legal proceedings of claiming that inheritance.
We encourage everyone to consult with trust and estate lawyers to craft the best scenarios for the successful passage of assets. An in-depth process is described here: https://medium.com/@vault12/how-it-works-vault2-digital-inheritance-327e271d46e2
How are these assets handled for inheritance tax purposes when they're passed on? As stocks, commodities, cash?
The Vault12 Digital Inheritance offering is a software solution that facilitates peer-2-peer recovery of the assets to the inheritor, the assets are not in the custody of the company, merely the access credentials. In fact, the Vault12 software stack is designed in a way that we never see what assets and what content owners are storing inside their Vaults. So the app is not in a position to enforce tax laws; that is up to executors, trustees, and beneficiaries once the distribution has been made.
How did you determine how much crypto is lost due to someone's death without passing on their keys? I take it "millions of dollars" is just an estimate.
Source: Cremation institute, July 2020: https://cremationinstitute.com/crypto-estate-plann...
It seems like the idea behind this is necessary, but with crypto adoption far from mainstream, there's a good chance users would be passing on their funds to someone who may know nothing about crypto. Do you have any mechanisms in place to handle this situation?
We designed this process to be very simple to retrieve assets. A guardian receives a message notifying them that they have been made a beneficiary. As the beneficiary, to activate inheritance, you simply press a button on the app - no crypto knowledge required.
Since the Vault12 solution allows storing any kind of assets and any kind of file, if the owner bequests his assets to a family member with no prior crypto knowledge, he can simply include detailed instructions (say, a PDF file) in his Vault, perhaps as simple as "Install wallet X and enter these words into it during the setup."
We believe Digital Inheritance should be a natural right of any self-reliant digital citizen of the world, and we simply provide the tool of such digital self-sovereignty. How exactly each person leverages the power of our tool is fundamentally up to them.
The process is described here: https://vimeo.com/vault12/digitalinheritancehowitworks In-depth process is described here: https://medium.com/@vault12/how-it-works-vault2-digital-inheritance-327e271d46e2
Can someone wait until (theoretically) the moment of their death to keep control of their own portfolio and keys? Crypto is still a volatile industry, so how quickly could a user change their assets to be passed down if the value suddenly dropped or surged?
The beautiful part about our Vaults is that the owner remains in full control of his assets and content of the Vault at all times. The "inheritance event" is fundamentally the emergency process for situations when the owner is no longer able to do any actions himself (for example, being in the hospital after a car accident). As long as the owner is alive and well, he can do any operations with his Vault inventory of digital assets, and new assets can be added/removed at any point.