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Man mistakenly throws away digital assets worth over £200m

A story which highlights the importance of recording digital assets sees a man mistakenly throw away his hard drive in 2013 with Bitcoin now worth more than £210 million.

In a bid to recover the fortune, James Howells from Newport has appealed to the council for permission to search the city’s landfill site.

The 35-year-old IT engineer was working from home having a clear out, when it suddenly dawned on him that he had thrown away the hard drive containing 7,500 Bitcoins rather than the empty hard drive he had meant to get rid off.

Mr Howells’ previous pleas to the council to get permission to search the site had all been denied. But he has now offered 25 per cent, which is around £52.5 million, of the value of the Bitcoin in the form of a Covid Relief Fund for the city’s residents.

Mr Howell said of the unfortunate incident:

“It’s quite a lot of money still sat there in the landfill.

“The way the landfill operated in 2013 was when a general waste bin was full, it was given a serial number, it was dragged off to the open pit and it was buried. It was also given a grid reference number.

“So what that means is, if I could access the landfill records, I could identify the week that I threw the hard drive away; I could identify the serial number of the bin that it was in; and then I could identify where the grid reference is located.

“I’d like the opportunity to sit down with the decision makers and present to them an action plan for what we want to do. I hope we can get that.

“I’ve got backing from a hedge fund who are willing to put up the funds for the project.

“We only want to search in one specific area. We want to employ an inflatable structure to create an air-tight seal around that area to stop landfill gases escaping.

“We are happy to put money in an Escrow account; if we don’t do things properly, the council won’t be left to foot the bill.”

Cash, properties and possessions traditionally all form part of a person’s estate when they pass away. However, in the 21st century, digital assets are becoming more and more common when administering an estate.

The Law Society have been stressing the importance of including ‘digital assets’ in Wills by urging people to include emails and photos when dealing with their affairs, after research reveals that three quarters of people do not know what happens to their online presence after they die.

Fogwill & Jones (Legal Services) Limited remains open during these unprecedented times with our staff working from home. We are conducting meetings with our clients via Skype, Whatsapp, Zoom or on the telephone.

If you would like help with making a new Will please contact Helena Grady on (0114 2588899). Helena Grady is a Solicitor and member of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP) with many years’ experience.

Please note that, although Fogwill & Jones (Legal Services) Limited operate from the same premises as Fogwill & Jones Asset Management Limited they are entirely separate businesses. The only connection is that both are owned by Colin Fogwill. If you are a client of Fogwill & Jones Asset Management Limited you are under no obligation to instruct Fogwill & Jones (Legal Services) Limited and you may choose to instruct alternative legal advisers.

Extracted from an article by Toni Ryder-McMullin in Todays Wills and Probate