There may come a time when, for one reason or another, you want to calculate or estimate what the value of your spouse’s (or ex-spouse’s) cryptocurrency portfolio is. The best way, of course, is simply to ask them. But some people who are known to hold significant holdings of cryptocurrency have been known not to disclose just how much they own whether at all or accurately.
There are a variety of reasons you might attempt to value the holdings yourself. One of the most common reasons is in the event of a divorce or separation. Assets are typically supposed to be split evenly in most cases, and if an individual is not disclosing or you suspect they are underreporting their cryptocurrency holdings, that’s a good reason to fact find yourself or (if the situation is unclear) seek investigative assistance. Another possibility is that you suspect your spouse may be lying to you about how much they hold. Perhaps that’s because they don’t want you to know how much they are ‘gambling’ on cryptocurrency, or perhaps they’re just protecting themselves in the event of separation in the future.
Reasons for Non-disclosure
There are a variety of reasons individuals elect not to disclose their cryptocurrency holdings. For one, just like when a person wins the lottery, their lives often change drastically for the worse when other people know they are wealthy. Their family and friends start treating them differently, clearly wanting the person to share their wealth. Their personal life suffers as a result, and it often results in bankruptcy and in some cases suicide.
Personal safety is also a serious concern. In the case of cryptocurrency, individuals sometimes don’t want to disclose their holdings because it opens them up to the $5 wrench attack. When’s the best time for an individual to disclose that they own cryptocurrency? ‘Never’, is what some people say. If no one knows you own cryptocurrency, no one is going to try to rob you of it.
Sometimes people don’t want to disclose their holdings because they are concerned about the IRS, CRA, or local tax agency going after them for tax fraud. It is extremely common for people to misreport or not report their cryptocurrency gains/losses at all when filing for taxes. To be fair to cryptocurrency users, the way the tax codes are designed is ludicrously impractical and unfair to cryptocurrency users, hence why some people can’t even be bothered. Nonetheless, tax agencies often find out unreported funds from ‘tips’ from friends, family, and neighbours. This also applies to other financial law violations, such as participation in ICOs or services not allowed in certain countries.
Another common reason people elect not to disclose even to close family members and friends is that they’re worried a relationship might eventually go south and the individual will either attempt to steal the cryptocurrency or take legal action against them in an attempt to force the user to hand at least some of it over. We find this a lot, particularly in divorce cases. And non-disclosure of cryptocurrency assets during divorce can have serious penalties. Since the holdings are sometimes in the millions of dollars, individuals have a very strong incentive to lie about how much wealth they are holding in cryptocurrency.
Estimating Cryptocurrency Portfolio Value
In order to estimate crypto holdings with even the slightest degree of accuracy, there’s some information you will need to gather first. In all likelihood, you won’t be able to gather all of this information fully, but the more you know the better.
When Did They Invest?
Knowing when they invested money is crucial to determining current portfolio value. It’s possible they may have invested at different times, or they may have even dollar-cost averaged. If they invested from a shared bank account, withdrawals to cryptocurrency exchanges would provide this data. However, it is possible (and somewhat common) these individuals will utilize other bank accounts in a premeditated attempt to obfuscate the trail from their spouse/ex-spouse, such as “savings accounts” for the kids (without joint ownership) or business accounts their spouse/ex-spouse did not have access to.
How Much Did They Invest?
Just as important as knowing when is how much. Even a tiny invest made years ago can be worth thousands of times more now.
What Coins? Have They Traded For Other Coins?
Knowing what coins they have invested in is also highly useful. While it’s possible they invested only in Bitcoin, if you’ve heard them mention altcoins like EOS, Litecoin, or Cardano, in all likelihood they have investments in them. Take note of which coins you’ve heard them mention before and when. If they managed to invest in Ethereum during their ICO phase for example, and never sold, their Ethereum holdings are likely quite sizable. Their holdings would be much higher than if they just owned Bitcoin (BTC) because within this same timeframe August 2014 until the writing of this article, Bitcoin has increased 36x while Ethereum has increased over 700x.
Selling or Use of Cryptocurrency
If you know they sold or used some of their cryptocurrency holdings, you’ll want to try and estimate these amounts as well and deduct the amounts accordingly. If the exchanges this was conducted on are known, subpoenas for account records work wonders.
Once you’ve estimated as much of this information as possible, proceed to calculate the current portfolio value using Coinmarketcap. By knowing the rough value of the cryptocurrency obtained, and when, you can use that to estimate a Return on Investment (ROI).
Useful Information to Have
It’s also useful to gather the details and information below. While it probably won’t help you in estimating the portfolio value itself, it will help you understand where the funds are currently located in case you need to attempt to take possession of the funds.
Method of Acquisition
Did they purchase it off an exchange? Or did they purchase it from someone else in person? Did they work for it or receive it in exchange for a good or service? Or did they mine it?
What cryptocurrency exchanges have they used to invest and/or trade cryptocurrency? This information will be important to know if you ever want to get a hold of their wallet addresses or trading history.
Bank and Credit Card Statements
If you have access to their bank statements or credit card statements, you can use them to determine what exchanges they used to acquire and/or dispose of cryptocurrency.
Method of Storage
What wallets or devices are they using to store their cryptocurrency? Where are they keeping their backups and/or seed phrases? Are they using a hardware wallet like a Trezor or Ledger device? We have found that many spouses/ex-spouses, once realizing their marriage is in disrepair, will move funds off an exchange and into personal wallets in an attempt to make freezing and seizure of those assets more difficult.
Installation of monitoring equipment such as security cameras, screen capture devices, or keyloggers can be very useful and aid you in finding cryptocurrency holdings. However, be careful about this and consult with a lawyer before attempting this as it is illegal to do some of these things in some jurisdictions without a warrant. Put simply, do not break the law — and the other methodologies described here are almost always beyond sufficient to compile the data required. Most of the time, this will not be an advisable route and will set your case backward.
Use the information you’ve gathered to estimate roughly when and how much they invested in cryptocurrency, and in which coins, while deducting dispositions. The more information you have the more accurate your estimate will be. In many cases, your estimate will be off by 75% or more prior to getting data from exchanges, banks, services, etc… and/or retaining blockchain forensics experts to review the situation, but at the very least it should help give you an idea if their current holdings are worth $5,000, $50,000, $500,000, or $5,000,000.
Note: Nothing in this article is to be construed as legal, financial, or tax advice.