Canadian entrepreneur Gerald Cotton died in December 2018. With him died the ability to access $145 million worth of bitcoin. Cotton’s widow, Jennifer Robertson, says in her affidavit "I do not know the password or recovery key. Despite repeated and diligent searches, I have not been able to find them written down anywhere”. While $145 million may be slightly more than the average asset misplaced when administering an estate, it is not uncommon for executors to struggle to find information regarding a deceased’s assets. Especially for those who take security seriously.
The vast majority of us are constantly ‘plugged in’ with our entire world seamlessly managed from our smartphones, from our banking to our emails to our complete social media presence. This has created the potential for hackers, or a vengeful ex-spouse, to invade privacy and access confidential information. As a consequence, as privacy concerns increase so do our security measures. Our Family Law clients are urged to change the passwords to their social media, email and banking accounts from the first time we meet with them. Today, I received an email reminding me that it had been over a year since I had last changed my password to my email account and strongly recommended that I do so immediately. Many banking systems and applications have required password changes every few months.
However, while these protective measures ensure that our present world is secure, how do we protect our future wishes?
Wills, Enduring Power of Attorneys, Enduring Power of Guardianship, Deed of Wishes, and Advanced Health Directives form a group of estate planning documents that work together to legally document your wishes for your future, and for the future of your estate. However, all of the documents can only go so far as to state your wishes as at the time of signing the documents and appoint a person to ensure that your wishes are appropriately carried out. These documents do not list every asset in your possession or every password that may be required to access those assets. Additionally, these documents cannot account for every possible situation that may occur from the date of signing to the date of death. For example, following signing your Will you may acquire a business, a new girlfriend, or perhaps adopt a child. Accordingly, it is essential to ensure that you regularly review, and update your estate planning documents.
Further, it is incredibly important to ensure that your nominated executor, attorney or guardian is someone that you trust to act in your best interests. While you may have trusted your Father-in-Law implicitly and nominated him as attorney when you signed your EPA 3 years ago, he may no longer be a trusted choice following separating from your spouse. Not only should you ensure your documents are kept up to date and nominate a trusted person, but you also need to ensure that your nominated person is aware of their role, where to find important information, and any asset that may otherwise go unnoticed. It is not uncommon for people to have multiple bank accounts in various countries, hold shares through various entities, and have dabbled in cryptocurrency. All of these assets could be missed, or otherwise unable to be accessed, without a properly informed executor.
Regardless of the necessary measures you take to secure your present, you must also ensure that your future is protected. Consider your estate plan carefully, regularly review and update it to ensure that you have placed trusted people in the necessary roles to carry out your wishes and that they have the information required to do so.
To find out more about protecting your Estate, contact us today.