Book Review: Dealing with Digital Assets by Julie Bell
Dealing with Digital Assets by Julie Bell for Law Society Publishing
This book provides a practical guide to advising clients making Wills and personal representatives (PRs) administering estates on how to deal with digital assets. The fact that 93% of people making Wills have not dealt with digital assets in their Wills make this book prescient at a time when there has been a huge increase in the use of online services and a massive uptake in cryptocurrencies. It is written by a solicitor for practitioners.
The book has six sections covering:
- What are digital assets?
- Issues to consider when drafting Wills
- Dealing with digital assets post-death
- Planning for the future
- The digitisation of Wills and Will signing
- Financial abuse and digital assets
Those readers who draft Wills will be particularly appreciative of the precedent clauses included to define digital assets and whether or not they are to be included in the definition of ‘personal chattels’. There are specific gift clauses and specific administrative powers.
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Of critical concern to many practitioners will be the chapter on ‘Dealing with digital assets post death’ given the high percentage of Wills which do not deal with digital assets. The author does not underplay the practical difficulties and considers the role and duties of PRs; whether digital assets should be deleted or retained; ascertaining digital assets both within and outside the Will estate; looks at how solicitors might reduce their risks; considers Data Security issues and the vexed question of valuing digital assets and approaches how to deal with individual assets such as bank accounts, cryptocurrencies etc.
Structure & Layout
Each of the six Chapters is subdivided into numbered paragraphs for ease of finding a particular point from the index. There are tables of cases, statutes, statutory instruments and international legislation.
There is an extensive Digital Asset Inventory in Appendix A.
As mentioned above there are precedents for Will drafting and the Digital Asset Inventory both of which will be welcomed by practitioners and for those alone, the book will be a worthwhile purchase.
There are no examples or case studies sadly of how a practitioner might approach a problem in practice but there are plenty of resources referred to in the text to help the practitioner apply such law as we have to the problems arising.
Clarity & readability
The author assumes no knowledge of digital assets in the reader as she “wants the reader to gain the confidence to be able to advise clients and answer their queries” which is a sensible starting point for a practical book.
The writer’s style is plain English, and the book is easy to read and clear in its message that practitioners must discuss digital assets and what is to happen to them on death with their clients.
Relevance to practitioners
This book is highly relevant to practitioners who prepare Wills and administer estates. It should be on every such practitioner’s bookshelf and actually be read from cover to cover, which is not onerous as it only extends to 132 pages. It is an invaluable resource and will surely help practitioners mitigate against the risk of claims in respect of digital assets.
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