Once again this year I succumb to the lazy pundits’ content creation strategy of posting a retrospective on the highlights of the legal year now drawing to a close. And why Not? Not only has it been a busy, busy year, but I have a hunch that a few years down the pike, analysts will be opining that 2018 was a watershed year in the evolution of the profession. Continue reading “The Legal year that was-2018”
An Executor’s job has never been an easy one, stick handling through the paperwork and bureaucracy to wrap up a deceased’s affairs while all the while dealing with the foibles and expectations of impatient beneficiaries.
It seem that every one is a critic when it comes to the disposition of the big-ticket items in the estate, the house, cottage or business, and the sniping doesn’t stop when dealing with the small stuff like the picture over the mantle and the costume jewellery.
The advent of crypto-currencies gives beneficiaries yet another golden opportunity to throw stones at beleaguered executors, who typically are walking blindfolded into a minefield when they enter the Alice-in Wonderland word of Bit-coin and Ethereum
An executor is charged with liquidating the assets of the estate in a careful, prudent and timely manner. More easily said than done in a world where asset values fluctuate constantly. Executors have long wrestled with decisions such as -” do I list the house for sale now, or wait til the spring, in hopes the market will continue to rise ?”. Lawyers, recognizing the problem of constantly changing asset values , usually include clauses in wills empowering executors to retain assets such as stocks and other securities in the form in which they were found at the date of death. Still, an executor is playing “hot potato” while holding onto any assets whose value can slide. Beneficiaries don’t want apologies they want cash!
Enter the era of digital currency – would it be an exaggeration to say that never before in the history of mankind has a more mercurial asset class existed? ( well, maybe tulips, during the infamous ‘Tulip mania’ bubble in fifteenth century Holland – but that’s another story !) From a 2014 value of around $120 the coin skyrocketed to an $18,000 high last December, before taking coin holders on a breathtaking roller coaster ride during 2018. A month ago a coin was worth over $6,000 while today, a month later , it trades at half that value.
So what’s an executor to do? how do you make a prudent business decision when dealing with a completely new class of asset, that you don’t understand, that fluctuates wildly in value? One wrong move and you are dead meat, and liable to be devoured by ravenous beneficiaries.
It’s certainly something to think about, when you get the phone call from that nerdy friend who dabbles in crypto currencies asking if you would mind being his executor. ( and,m if you are that nerdy guy, could you do every one a favour by liquidating your crypto – currency positions before you shuffle of your mortal coil?)
Mankind has always had an ambivalent relationship with disruptive technology. Inventive by nature we are constantly coming up with breakthrough ideas then slamming on the brakes out of fear that new technologies may need casualties in their wake.
The first red flag act was passed in the UK in 1865- to deal with the peril of self propelled vehicles or “horseless carriages” as they were sometimes known. Similar legislation was passed in several US states in the 1890s- they were called “red flag” acts, because they required horseless carriages to be accompanied by a flag person waving a red flag to warn others of their approach.
The newest red flag act was introduced by the BC government this month in the form of the Passenger Transportation Amendment Act– also known as the “Nobble Uber At All Costs Act”. It is a classic Luddite reaction to the emergence of disruptive technology. The legislation seeks to eliminate all of the unique attributes of ride sharing, such as the ability to tap into casual part-time drivers, and the use of dynamic pricing, and tries to force ride sharing into the old-fashioned taxi business model.
Just as the governments of the day had no success forcing horseless carriages to throttle back to the speed of the horse-drawn carriages they were replacing, I predict that the BC government will not be able to continue to bind the hands of the ride sharing movement for much longer. Frankly, it is an embarrassment that they are attempting to do so.