Catherine Burke Gives Primer on Blockchain Law to Tax and Estate Lawyers

Gravel & Shea Attorney Catherine Burke recently gave two presentations on blockchain law at The Tax and Estate Planning Forum in San Diego, California. In an overview seminar, Catherine focused on understanding the technology itself as well as the new corporate structure, a blockchain-based limited liability company (BBLLC), recently created by Vermont’s legislature.

Catherine later led a blockchain workshop where attendees dug deeper into the legal implications of blockchain advancements on tax and estate planning.  For those practicing in the tax and estate planning space, blockchain presents questions and opportunities around company formation, the valuation of cryptocurrency and blockchain assets, tax considerations, and smart contracting.

Estate planning attorneys attending the workshop reported that they are already seeing issues related to blockchain-based assets. For instance, attorneys may need to understand the digital wallets in which their clients hold assets and learn the custody rules of those systems. Digital assets also present an increased need for conversations about password protection and retention.

Many attorneys who don’t practice in a traditionally tech-focused area of the law shy away from blockchain discussions, but the technology is beginning to have implications across practice areas. “This was a fantastic overview of a really complex subject,” said one attendee. “I feel like I finally understand blockchain.”

Another posited that these blockchain questions represent the future of the legal industry. While blockchain is unlikely to become a daily part of practice for most tax and estate planning attorneys, understanding blockchain law can help attorneys avoid unanticipated tax and liability consequences and potentially develop a valuable niche that will grow in importance.