Special Interest Spotlight Session 2022: A case study on digital assets and fiduciary access. 9 December 2022

Sponsored by:

SIG Spotlight week sponsors



The estate of the late Gerald Cotten, CEO of QuadrigaCX, captured the globe’s attention when news broke of his death on his honeymoon in India. The entire case and the details of the US$140 million in cryptocurrency lost upon his death, are chronicled in lengthy bankruptcy court proceedings, articles, and documentaries. Although Mr. Cotten died with a will (that included a clause authorising his executor to access and administer his digital assets), his executor was unsuccessful in retrieving hundreds of millions of cryptocurrencies following his death. 

Using the QuadrigaCX case study as a backdrop, this Spotlight session highlighted the potential financial and emotional loss that results from digital assets being undisclosed, physically, or legally inaccessible, or if there is a protracted delay in administration.

Whether a client uses e-mail to manage their financial and personal affairs, or is a sophisticated investor in cryptocurrency, the exploration of this case demonstrates that estate practitioners must consider the issues and challenges associated with accessing and administering digital asset for all clients. Every client has a digital footprint, and estate practitioners face potential risks and liabilities associated with planning and administering a client’s digital assets.

This session examined three areas of potential liability for estate firms and practitioners, in terms of:

  1. advising fiduciaries (digital assets posing time sensitive challenges)
  2. firm practices and policies that should be updated to contemplate a client’ use of technology having replaced a traditional paper trail
  3. and the property rights and tax implications of significant digital asset ownership.