It was bound to happen. For several years the Qwill team has been reading stories of money lost. Granted, they’re typically smaller on the news scale – unknown 401K’s, life insurance policies never discussed, investments that weren’t shared. It’s a weirdly quiet problem that impacts individuals daily, but it adds up to an astronomical amount of money. It’s estimated that over $50 billion (yes, with a b) is currently lost or unclaimed in the US, and that number increases to the tune of about $3-5 billion each year. 1
That’s right — people are just losing cash. What’s going on?!
For those who haven’t seen the story yet, Gerald Cotten, the CEO and lone password holder of the QuadrigaCX cryptocurrency exchange, passed away unexpectedly while traveling last month – leaving Quadriga customers up a creek to the tune of over $200 Million. What’s crazier is Cotten made a will just 12 days prior to his death, clearly indicating he knew the importance of making sure his family would be taken care of should he pass. Ironically, he didn’t account for the one thing he knew more about than most – sharing secure data. Of course, there’s now speculation that maybe he faked his death…and while that’s awfully juicy, let’s set that aside for now.
The fact is, every day, regular Americans are losing money. Lots and lots of money. When we started Qwill, it was motivated by frustration with the current process. Estate planning is time consuming, expensive, morbid, and complicated – it’s an unbelievably broken industry. But beyond that, we found an enormous gap in how people were planning their estates. More often than not, executors (the folks responsible for distributing an estate) were completely blindsided by the amount of information that they had to sort through and piece together. Why? For some reason most of us live with an assumption that, “it’ll all just work out.” But the fact is – somebody has to figure it out, and it’s usually the person closest to you. The dirty little secret? They often don’t figure it out.
Take a minute to do a brief inventory of your life:
- How many bank accounts do you have?
- Social media accounts?
- Insurance policies?
- Computers, phones, and their passwords?
- A child or pet with some kind of special circumstance or need?
Obviously this list could go on and on. Okay, now – if someone had to take over all those things tomorrow without any guidance, could they access them? Would they even know about all of them?
The punchline here is that for most of us, the answer’s simply no – not everything. Something invariably will be lost – or at minimum, will be an enormous headache to figure out. I’m the CEO of a company that focuses on this stuff and my wife still doesn’t have every last detail, because life evolves, accounts change, and frankly, we’re usually dealing with too many immediate priorities of parenting and work to think about communicating these things. But it’s real, and it’s a problem.
People wonder how it’s possible to just lose accounts, but this is one of the big reasons why that number adds up to billions each year. It’s painful to think that every day, fortunes that have taken a lifetime to build go back to the government because there’s no one (or no way) to claim them. Until today, that is.
The Qwill Vault
Qwill is incredibly proud to introduce Vault, a purpose-built account and password manager that is designed from the ground up for distribution to your executor. This means three things:
1. It’s super secure.
Like, kind-of-a-pain-in-the-ass-but-worth-it, secure. Vault is a third-party verified, encrypted database of your accounts where you are the only key holder. In practice, what that means is that even if we were hacked, your information remains safe because Qwill doesn’t have the key. In fact, for security reasons, Vault is designed so no one at Qwill will ever have access to see our users’ Vault data. The tradeoff, of course – like any key – is that it’s important you keep it safe-and-secure locally, because it cannot be recovered by us.
2. It’s built for distribution.
Unlike traditional password managers, the design of Qwill’s Vault was built from scratch with the intention of passing important info to someone else. To that end, instructions to unlock the Vault (along with the encryption key) are kept as part of the Qwill estate documents, and should be stored with your will (the location of which is identified in Qwill for distribution to your executor).
3. Again, it’s super secure.
When an executor needs to access your Vault, they must:
- Be the person listed as your named executor (or have a court order).
- Provide your death certificate.
- Provide their official ID.
- Go through a mandated waiting period/internal security review, including cross-platform and offline notifications to the user to ensure there’s no shenanigans.
As I’ve said before, this is just the beginning for Qwill. Our reimagining of estate planning includes fixing every piece that’s broken, improving every process that’s frustrating, and ultimately providing the best possible experience for transferring information from one generation to the next. Vault, however, was a large undertaking of which we’re particularly proud. It can save your family untold thousands, and essentially eliminates the burden that we all eventually pass on.
Here’s to hoping the next crypto exchange CEO is using Qwill!
How to start filling your Vault
Vault is currently available as part of the Qwill iOS app which can be installed on your iPhone via the app store. It’s easy to get started, and any user can try it out for free. For more information, check out our FAQs.
Greg has been a sea-kayaking guide in Alaska, a Via-Ferrata guide in the Italian Dolomites, a night-shift assembly line worker at soap-packaging factories in Vermont, and a recording engineer in Boston. More recently, Greg held leadership roles at Bizo and LinkedIn, and is now CEO/Co-Founder of Qwill. He spends most of his time trying to get his 2-year-old son to eat something.