Germany: Kryptowährungen im Nachlass – was nun?

Last Updated: 23 July 2019
Article by Gerd Seeliger
Most Read Contributor in Germany, July 2019

Kryptowährungen, vor allem Bitcoin als die wohl bekannteste unter ihnen sind in jüngster Vergangenheit vielfach in Erscheinung getreten. Besonders spektakulär auch der Fall des im April 2018 verstorbenen US Krypto-Millionärs, dessen Erben mangels Kenntnis von Zugangsdaten nicht über das geschätzte Guthaben von 250 Millionen US Dollar verfügen konnten. Daher soll nachfolgend die Frage nach der Vererbbarkeit von Kryptowährungen beziehungsweise nach Kryptowährungen in der Nachlassplanung im Vordergrund stehen.

Mit dem Tod geht die Gesamtheit der Rechtsverhältnisse einer Person unter Einbeziehung der Verbindlichkeiten auf die Erben über (sog. Universalsukzession, § 1922 BGB). Dies gilt auch für den digitalen Nachlass, d.h. für die Gesamtheit der Rechtsverhältnisse des Erblassers betreffend informationstechnischer Systeme einschließlich des gesamten Datenbestandes". Unproblematisch ist damit die Vererbbarkeit von im Eigentum des Erblassers stehender Hardware einschließlich der auf einer Festplatte oder einem USB Stick gesicherten Daten. Auch hat der Bundesgerichtshof am 12. Juli 2019 entschieden, dass die Vertragsbeziehungen zwischen Nutzer und Providern im Bereich des digitalen Nachlasses den Grundsätzen des Erbrechts unterliegen und Erben somit ein Recht auf Zugang und Inhalt von Accounts haben. Doch lassen sich diese Grundsätze auf Kryptowährungen übertragen?

Kryptowährungen beruhen auf verschlüsselten Datenmengen: Diese sind jedoch nicht individuell abgrenzbar, werden vielmehr als digitale Informationen über Guthabentransaktionen dezentral in einer sog. Blockchain" fortgeschrieben. Folglich werden bei Guthabentransfers keine aus abgrenzbaren Daten bestehenden konkreten Währungseinheiten übertragen, vielmehr wird nur die Berechtigung über ein zugunsten eines Nutzers bestehenden Blockchain-Eintrag geändert. Das dem jeweiligen Nutzer auf der Blockchain zugeordnete Guthaben wird in passwortgesicherten virtuellen Brieftaschen, sog. Wallets", ermittelt, angezeigt und verwaltet. Diese Wallets" sind mit einem Public Key", d.h. einer Art öffentlich einsehbarer Kontonummer versehen. Die faktische Verfügbarkeit über das Guthaben eines Nutzers ergibt sich jedoch aus dem ebenfalls verschlüsselten Private Key". Dieser erlaubt die Autorisierung zu Guthabentransaktionen durch Hinzufügung einer digitalen Signatur. Der Private Key kann auf einem Blatt Papier geschrieben, in einem Wallet auf der eigenen Festpatte oder auf den Servern des Anbieters eines Online Wallets verwahrt werden. Geht der Wallet mit dem Private Key verloren, so sind Verfügungen über Kryptowährungen nicht mehr möglich.

Als Folge der technische Funktionsweise werden Kryptowährungen die Eigenschaft als Sache i.S.d. § 90 ff BGB abgesprochen und mangels Speicherung der Daten auf einem Speichermedium des Nutzers der Übergang der dezentral gespeicherten virtuellen Daten zusammen mit dem Eigentum am Speichermedium abgelehnt. Ebenso wenig gibt es eine Forderung gegenüber anderen Nutzern oder einen Vermögenswert in Form einer das jeweilige Kryptoguthaben bildenden Datenmenge.

Als erbrechtliches Bezugsobjekt kommt somit nur der Private Key in Betracht, der seinem Inhaber die faktische Verfügungsmacht über das Guthaben an Kryptowährungen ermöglicht. Verfügt ein Nutzer nicht mehr über diesen Private Key kann er keine Transaktionen über das ihm im Wege eines Blockchain Eintrags zugeordneten Kryptoguthaben mehr machen.

Ist somit der Private Key das entscheidende Bezugsobjekt so ist für die Vererbbarkeit entscheidend, wie dieser im Zeitpunkt des Erbfalls gesichert ist. Ist er mitsamt dem Wallet auf einem Speichermedium des Erblassers, z.B. einem USB-Stick, einem Tablet, PC oder Smartphone gespeichert so geht er ohne weiteres gem. § 1922 BGB zusammen mit der Hardware auf die Erben über. Dies gilt ebenso, wenn der Erblasser den Private Key in Schriftform auf einem Blatt Papier festgehalten hat. Hat er ein Online Wallet auf dem Server eines Drittanbieters genutzt, so geht der Anspruch auf Zugang zu dem Wallet und dem Private Key mit dem Vertrag zwischen Nutzer und Provider auf die Erben über, wie der Bundesgerichtshof in seinem Urteil vom 12. Juli 2018 bestätigte.

Aus Gesagtem ergibt sich die enorme Bedeutung des Private Keys und dessen Sicherung bei Kryptowährungen. Der Besitz von Kryptowährung verlangt von seinem Besitzer, den Private Key an sicherer Stelle zu verwahren und im Zusammenhang mit der Nachfolgeplanung des Zugang der Erben zu dem Private Key zu gewährleisten.

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