Lawbrief June 2022

We are back at 22 The Terrace

We are pleased to announce that we have officially returned to our offices at Level 4, 22 The Terrace.
As many of you will know, we temporarily relocated to 318 Lambton Quay in mid-November 2020 to allow for earthquake strengthening work to the building at 22 The Terrace, as well as the refurbishment of our office space on Level 4. Although the works took longer than the six months that we were initially expecting, we are extremely happy with the final results.
The building has been constructed to 100% NBS, has a Five-Star Green Star efficiency rating, a refurbished foyer and entranceway, and secure storage and shower facilities for those employees who wish to cycle to work or to exercise during the day.

Our premises have been fully modernised and refurbished. In particular, we have created three new meeting rooms, two of which have video-conferencing technology. This means we can meet with you remotely. It also allows us to attend virtual mediations and Court hearings. 
We appreciate that there will always be times when it is better or more convenient to meet with us in person. We still have two car parks exclusively for use by our clients so please ask for one if you anticipate that you will drive to your meeting with us.
Lastly, there are two new staff members to tell you about. Sarah Anderson has joined us straight from Law School. She is currently a Law Clerk but will be promoted to Solicitor once she has been formally admitted as a Barrister and Solicitor. You can read more about Sarah in the article below. Sandy Mahasuriya is our new Receptionist. You will see her when you come to our offices to meet with us. She is looking forward to meeting you all.
As you can tell, we are so excited to be back at 22 The Terrace. We look forward to seeing you there soon.

Costas Matsis
Managing Partner

Succession in the digital age

Identifying the assets and liabilities of a deceased person used to be a pretty straightforward exercise. Statements for bank accounts, credit cards and investments could be found in boxes and filing cabinets, we could identify any real property with a land title search, and personal chattels were limited to those in the physical realm. However, with the creep of the internet finding its way into our everyday lives, this collection of personal property is starting to look a little different.

Digital assets are increasingly ubiquitous and wide-ranging in nature. Even the most technophobic of us have email, social media accounts, and online subscriptions. The more tech-savvy may own websites, online content accounts (such as their own YouTube channel), cryptocurrency and NFTs (“non-fungible tokens,” a one of a kind, akin to an original artwork).

As with any other personal property you should consider the fate of your digital assets upon your death when preparing your will. Many providers have systems in place for dealing with accounts of a deceased user. For instance:

  • Facebook can update a profile to a “legacy page,” and you can appoint a “legacy contact” who can complete this for you after you die.
  • Twitter will delete an account upon request and receipt of proof of death.
  • Google, which owns YouTube among other account providers, has a tool that enables users to choose what happens to their accounts after a period of inactivity, such as shutting down accounts or sending information to a nominated person.  
  • In late 2021 Apple introduced a feature that enables users to hand over control of their iCloud account to a named person after they die.

Online subscriptions to access music or e-books usually operate under licensing laws. This means the user can access these libraries but does not entail ownership so cannot be transferred under a will.
Funds held in online accounts, such as PayPal, TradeMe and betting websites may be retrieved from the provider and distributed. Likewise, digitally stored “points” like Air New Zealand Airpoints may be transferred. It is important to note, though, that these will not be retrieved if no one knows they are there.

Not all digital assets have a central registry or owner to receive instructions for dealing with assets after death. For instance, cryptocurrency, the most well-known being bitcoin, is held in an individual’s virtual “wallet” and can only be accessed by a private key (similar to a passcode but too long to guess and *almost* unique). In 2013 a UK man threw out a hard drive which held his private key for 7,500 bitcoin and has spent eight years in a battle with the landfill owner to search for it. In New Zealand dollars today, 7,500 bitcoin is worth $364,486,625.00.    

Even if your own crypto wallet is not worth billions of dollars it is important to have a plan for its succession. One option may be to have the private key recorded in a safe place and to ensure a trusted person has access to your phone for two-factor authentication to retrieve the digital wallet, essentially enabling them to access your cryptocurrency as you. You could then leave instructions in your will as to who will inherit, as you would for money in your bank account.
There is a huge range of digital assets and as with any personal property, the best time to plan for their succession is sooner rather than later. We offer some tips for your planning:

  1. Identify what your digital assets are. A good rule of thumb is to consider what you need a passcode to access – email, social media, various accounts, and subscriptions.
  2. Keep a full inventory of these assets so that anyone looking after your estate can identify what needs attention. We recommend keeping an inventory of all major assets and liabilities, particularly those for which you receive online statements and accordingly may not be easily discovered by your executor or lawyer.
  3. Keep passwords, including access to your phone, in a safe place that can be found by the executor of your will, and keep this updated.
  4. Read the terms and conditions of various digital providers you use to see what options they offer for closing, memorialising, or transferring those accounts after your death. This information may also be contained within the account settings.
  5. For more complicated digital assets, such as cryptocurrency and NFTs, consider appointing a digital executor – a person specifically designated to attend to the more complex digital matters.

This can be a daunting exercise and we are more than happy to advise you. You can contact Zoe at:

Zoe’s DDI: (04) 472 4687
or write to us at PO Box 645, DX SP26507 Wellington 6140
Website –