While I enjoy writing about the legal aspects of digital assets in estate planning and administration, I don’t think that I have spent enough time focusing on the work of the wonderful advisors in this space: technology consultants, lawyers and policy analysts among them. The efforts of these advisors have helped shape the law, internationally, in an area where legal guidance has desperately been needed. As time goes on, I am optimistic that the law will do more and more to help remove barriers for the loved ones of deceased people to administering their estates and bringing closure to what is always a challenging event.
I am writing this post in the wake of the news that I received this week that a prominent figure in this space—Sharon Hartung—has sadly passed away. Sharon was a tremendous force in the digital assets in estate planning and administration world. She has written three books on these topics and I have featured the concepts that she’s developed on several times on this blog. After going through the difficult experience of losing her mother and dealing with her mother’s estate, Sharon made it her life’s mission to educate others about how one can leverage technology to address the challenges that estate planning and administration often present. As Sharon learned more about estates law, she developed a particular focus on digital assets; she discovered that beneficiaries all over the world have been facing major barriers in accessing their deceased love ones’ photos, cryptocurrency and other digital assets with sentimental and/or financial value.
As a certified Project Management Professional, engineer, former executive at IBM and former member of the Canadian Armed forces, Sharon truly had the skills necessary to take this on and we as a community of advisors were very lucky to have her. Over the years she has produced a staggering amount of content and has been happy to share her knowledge with others. Beyond her technical expertise, she was truly a wonderful person.
As fate would have it, I am writing this blog post while on a plane to London, United Kingdom to speak at a Society of Trusts and Estates Practitioners (STEP) Digital Assets Special Interest Group Spotlight event. Sharon played a critical role in organizing and structuring this event. I and many others were looking forward to meeting her in person for the first time. While we no longer have that opportunity, I am confident that Sharon would want us to continue with this event and keep the conversation going about these very real issues.
There is no doubt that Sharon has done a wonderful job brining together a community of advisors who are advocating in this space. I am looking forward to meeting many of these community members and learning more about their own experiences at the event (which is today). As advisors we often work on multidisciplinary teams which require a great deal of close collaboration. I just want to take a moment to thank of all of the advisors I’ve worked with for their efforts, as this is the first time I’ve experienced the loss of someone with whom I’ve worked closely.
May Sharon rest in peace, and may her legacy will live on through her significant contributions to this area. Thank you Sharon.
 Your Digital Undertaker: Exploring Death in the Digital Age in Canada (2019), Digital Executor®: Unraveling the New Path for Estate Planning (2021), and Digital Asset Entanglement: Unraveling the Intersection of Estate Laws & Technology (2022)