Continued Inaccessibility of Digital Assets

October 29, 2020 Nick Esterbauer Estate & Trust, In the News Tags: , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

We have previously blogged extensively on the issue of inaccessibility of digital assets and the absence of legislation in Canadian provinces, including Ontario, to clarify the rights of a fiduciary to access and administer digital assets on behalf of a deceased or incapable rights holder.

While the Substitute Decisions Act, 1992, and Estates Administration Act provide that attorneys or guardians of properties and estate trustees, respectively, are authorized to manage the property of an incapable person or an estate, Ontario does not currently have any legislation that clarifies these rights by explicit reference to digital assets.  While continuing powers of attorney for property and wills can be crafted to explicitly refer to digital assets and the authority of an attorney for property or estate trustee to access accounts and information in the same manner in which the user him or herself was able, access issues can still arise during incapacity or after death.

A recent CBC article highlights the inadequacy of legislation facilitating access to digital assets.  A surviving wife of over forty years was the estate trustee and sole residuary beneficiary of her late husband’s estate.  In seeking access to an Apple account that she shared with her husband, she was told that she would require a court order, even after providing Apple with a copy of her husband’s death certificate and will.  Apple cited the United States’ Electronic Communications Privacy Act, which predates the prominence of computers and the internet in our daily lives, as prohibiting them from distributing personal electronic information.  Four years after her husband’s death in 2016, the Ontario woman is now obtaining pro bono assistance in seeking a court order granting access to the shared account in the absence of any other options.

It is anticipated that the adoption of the Uniform Law Conference of Canada’s Uniform Access to Digital Assets by Fiduciaries Act would resolve some or all of the issues currently faced by Ontario residents in accessing and administering digital assets.  However, now over four years since its release, only Saskatchewan has implemented provincial legislation mirroring the language of the uniform act.

It will be interesting to see in coming years whether legislative updates will address continued barriers to the access and administration of digital assets and the corresponding access to justice issue.

Thank you for reading,

Nick Esterbauer

 

Other blog entries that may be of interest:

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

SUBSCRIBE TO OUR BLOG

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.
 

CONNECT WITH US

TRY HULL E-STATE PLANNER SOFTWARE

Hull e-State Planner is a comprehensive estate planning software designed to make the estate planning process simple, efficient and client friendly.

Try it here!

CATEGORIES

ARCHIVES

TWITTER WIDGET