Dealing with Digital Assets: A Guide for Private Client Solicitors


Julie Bell


£55, Law Society



The preface to Julie Bell’s slim volume says: ‘I have assumed no prior knowledge of digital assets and want the reader to gain the confidence to be able to advise clients and answer their queries.’

Does this mean the book is an easy read, only useful for complete technophobes? Far from it. From the very first sentence, we dive into short and straightforward explanations of highly complex terminology, so that by the end of the opening chapter, we are all up to speed and know our cryptocurrency from our cloud storage, armed and ready to consider how to advise testators with significant digital assets to include in their wills.

Bell reminds us that there is a growing expectation that solicitors offering will-writing services will be equipped to advise on digital assets. She reminds us of our professional indemnity insurance and regulatory obligations, including paragraph 3.3 of the SRA Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFLs; and that solicitors must be competent to carry out a particular role and ‘keep their professional knowledge and skills up to date’.

There is also the potential human and financial losses for beneficiaries: we are reminded of Rachel Thompson who battled for years to secure access to her late husband’s photos and videos.

Bell suggests different ways in which firms with one or more will-writer might create and manage their digital knowledge bank. Most helpfully she provides a detailed Digital Asset Inventory, which is a useful starting point in supporting clients to gather a full record of their digital footprint.

Taking account of the fact that digital assets are not ‘tangible’, and so do not fall within the standard definition of ‘personal chattels’, the reader is given a range of precedent clauses for digital gifts and associated administrative powers.

The second half of the book gives us a step-by-step guide in dealing with these assets post-death, but then changes gear and looks to the future.

Bell explores the importance of considering express powers when making LPAs, with the prospect of forgetting passwords, losing access, and so on, with the onset of cognitive decline. She acknowledges that technology can bring many benefits but also risks such as romance scamming and phishing, and suggests what can be done when such abuse is suspected.

This is a great read for anyone who has so far resisted getting under the bonnet of this important, growing asset-class. It is also a handy pocketbook of precedents.


Sheree Green is director of Greenchurch Legal in Stoke-on-Trent, a former chair of the Law Society Mental Health and Disability committee and a member of the Office of the Public Guardian panel of independent deputies