March 2018 marks the 5th anniversary of the Bermuda Law Blog. Developed in 2013 as a way to communicate legal trends and topics relevant to Bermuda, including policy developments, cases, legislative changes and posts of general legal interest, it effectively scrapped the posting of ever-so-quickly dated "publications" documents delivered through the firm website as a link to a formal downloadable PDF. We were stepping outside the box in the hopes that visitors to our blog would find it more engaging, informative and useful. Although the road ahead was uncertain, the firm's directors gave the thumbs up for its development. They saw that blogging could offer a terrific opportunity to extend the value and scope of our legal experience to our clients and legal colleagues in areas of current interest through posts that are written in an accessible way. Andrew Martin put it really well when he said "Blog posts create a user friendly expression of ideas and information across the spectrum of work we do and give us an opportunity to demonstrate a high level of competence in our core areas of practice, as well as provide practical and informative guidance which we hope our clients and the wider legal community will find of interest.”
Here's to dynamic and forward-thinking leaders, I thought to myself.
“There is only one kind of shock worse than the totally unexpected: the unexpected for which one has refused to prepare.” Mary, Renault, The Charioteer
In May 2013, I wrote about the importance of addressing digital assets in the context of estate planning. With the passage of almost five years, I thought it would be interesting to revisit this subject. What, if any, progress has been made in identifying the nature and scope of digital assets and the rights arising in respect of those assets on the death of the “user”? To make this review a bit easier, I will adopt the definition of a “custodian” used in the Revised Uniform Fiduciary Access to Digital Assets Act (2015) (“DAA”) of the United States, who is defined as “a person that carries, maintains, processes, receives, or stores a digital asset of a user”. This definition is intended to cover all online accounts, services and social networking providers.
It is well recognised that in the context of certain types of banking transactions a presumption of undue influence can arise. An example of this would be where an individual is agreeing to charge a property which they own in order to secure the debts of their spouse. The question of whether a lack of independent legal advice invalidated a guarantee was considered recently in a case before the Chief Justice: Clarien Bank v E Kempe.
It is always reassuring when a decision of the court validates and confirms the adage that the law is largely just “common sense with knobs on” (in the words of Lord Sumption).
The loser in a recent injunction case wanted to be able to rely upon privileged information contained in the bill of costs submitted by the winner, and to use that information against the winner in the arbitration proceedings that were pending between the parties. This is pretty outrageous, and one would readily expect that this would not be permissible. It isn’t.
Bermuda has many resourceful and hard-working business proprietors. Each one loves the enterprise he or she has built and for many, the hope is that it will continue many years and possibly many generations into the future. The successful continuation of the business after the death of the proprietor is not, however, a foregone conclusion and if this is a paramount goal of the proprietor, estate planning will be required.
The specific issues that arise in the context of succession to a family business will depend, in the first instance, on the form of that business. Different considerations arise in the context of a sole proprietorship than a limited liability company or partnership, but regardless of the form of business, it is essential to address the future. This article will deal solely with sole proprietorships and I will consider issues related to succession in the context of a limited liability company at a later time.