Tag: Model Legislation

07 Apr

Why should we care about fiduciary access to digital assets?

Nick Esterbauer Estate & Trust, General Interest, Power of Attorney, Wills Tags: , , , , , , , 0 Comments

My other two blog posts this week have focused on the utility of model legislation that has been introduced in Canada and the United States to address the issue of fiduciary access to digital assets, and some of the primary differences between the uniform acts of these two jurisdictions.

Today, I take the opportunity to highlight the prevalence of digital assets through the use of some interesting (and somewhat surprising) statistics:

  • 99% of North Americans use at least one personal online tool;
  • A 2013 study by McAfee suggests that Canadians value their digital assets at an average of more than $32,000.00.  Since 2013, the prevalence of digital assets has increased significantly;
  • Worldwide, Bitcoins are valued at almost $22 billion, with over $2 million in Bitcoins exchanged every day;
  • As many of our readers already know, many Canadians (estimated to be more than 60%) do not have a Last Will and Testament.  Of those who do have a Will, 57% of North Americans aged 45 and older have not included provisions that address access to digital assets as part of their formal estate plan.  Such provisions may be required in order for an estate trustee to gain access to digital assets, absent the enactment of legislation permitting same or a court order granting access.

Our blog has previously covered some of the common issues resulting from the inattention to digital estate planning, which can arise regardless of the financial value of the assets in dispute.

Have a great weekend,

Nick Esterbauer

 

Other blog posts that you may enjoy reading:

06 Apr

Comparing Canadian and American Digital Asset Legislation

Nick Esterbauer Executors and Trustees, General Interest, Guardianship, Power of Attorney, Trustees Tags: , , , , , , , , , , 0 Comments

Canada’s model legislation regarding digital assets, the Uniform Access to Digital Assets by Fiduciaries Act (the “Canadian Model Act”), was introduced in August 2016, and borrows heavily from its American predecessor, the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (the “American Model Act”).

The Canadian Model Act defines a “digital asset” as “a record that is created, recorded, transmitted or stored in digital or other intangible form by electronic, magnetic or optical means or by any other similar means.” As with the definition appearing within the American Model Act, this definition does not include title to an underlying asset, such as securities as digital assets. Unlike the American Model Act, the Canadian Model Act does not define the terms “information” or “record.”

In the Canadian Model Act, the term “fiduciary” is also defined similarly as in the American Model Act, restricting the application of both pieces of model legislation to four kinds of fiduciary: personal representatives, guardians, attorneys appointed under a Power of Attorney for Property, and trustees appointed to hold a digital asset in trust.

One challenge that both pieces of model legislation attempt to address is the delicate balance between the competing rights to access and privacy.  The American Model Act is somewhat longer in this regard, as it addresses provisions of American privacy legislation to which there is no equivalent in Canada.  Canadian law does not treat fiduciary access to digital assets as a “disclosure” of personal information.  Accordingly, under Canadian law, the impact on privacy legislation by fiduciary access to digital assets is relatively limited.

The Canadian Model Act provides a more robust right of access to fiduciaries. Unlike the American Model Act, the Canadian Model Act does not authorize custodians of digital assets to choose the fiduciary’s level of access to the digital asset.  Section 3 of the Canadian Model Act states that a fiduciary’s right of access is subject instead to the terms of the instrument appointing the fiduciary, being the Power of Attorney for Property, Last Will and Testament, or Court Order.

Unlike the American Model Act, the Canadian equivalent has a “last-in-time” priority system. The most recent instruction concerning the fiduciary’s right to access a digital asset takes priority over any earlier instrument. For example, an account holder with a pre-existing Last Will and Testament, who chooses to appoint a Facebook legacy contact is restricting their executor’s right to access their Facebook account after death pursuant to the Will.

Despite their differences, both pieces of model legislation serve the same purpose of facilitating access by attorneys for or guardians of property and estate trustees to digital assets and information held by individuals who are incapable or deceased and represent steps in the right direction in terms of updating estate and incapacity law to reflect the prevalence of digital assets in the modern world.

Thank you for reading,

Nick Esterbauer

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