BLOCKCHAIN: A secure digital ledger in which transactions are recorded chronologically and publicly.
ELECTRONIC WILL (“E-Will”): A document in an electronic format and signed electronically, whether witnessed or unwitnessed, purporting to declare an individuals intent for the disposition of assets on death.
The American Bar Association recently published an interesting article regarding the status of electronic wills in the United States. Bifocal, Vol. 38, Issue 5; https://www.americanbar.org/groups/law_aging/publications/bifocal/vol_38/issue-5–june-2017/the-future-of-electronic-wills/. Interestingly, ACTEC Trust and Estate Talk podcast had a similar episode on July 24, 2018 called Digital Will Revolution.
Both publications prophesied that the future is coming in terms of estate planning. Today, an estate plans consists of an inevitable visit to a stuffy law office and a sit down with a stuffy attorney. (Present company excluded as I am not at all stuffy). Then you begin to discuss the unpleasant topic of your inevitable death, the fate of your children and of all the assets/debts that you acquire during your life. Your lawyer will likely make some recommendations regarding how to best accomplish your goals with the least amount of tax impact possible and take steps to prevent interactions with the probate court.
After preparing the documents necessary to accomplish these goals, you will go back to the stuffy law office and sign a stack of papers in front of witnesses and a notary. You will then be charged with keeping those documents safe and sound until you die. Forget about scanning and maintaining electronic copies. The originals are really going to be important here.
However, the process described above just doesn’t look like what our digitally minded up and coming generation is accustomed to seeing in their day to day business interactions. Rather, we are moving into an era of the dissolution of brick and mortars, video conferences with attendees worldwide and electronic signatures.
The Electronic Signatures in Global and National Commerce Act, L. No. 106-229, 114 Stat. 464 (2000) (“E-sign Act”) is almost twenty years old. It’s all grown up. We should be prepared for the demand that the Act be utilized in the one world’s most archaic of industries, Estate Planning. The E-sign Act specifically excludes wills and other testamentary matters if state law prohibits electronic signatures. And the States do prohibit it, except Nevada and Indiana.
Often the concern regarding electronic signatures on testamentary documents is the possibility for alteration. That is the concern that created the archaic system we have today because, lets face it, when comes to inheritance, people have a tendency to behave very badly.
This my friends, is where blockchain comes in. Blockchain has the ability to make testamentary bequests safe from alteration in the same way that it creates a safe environment to exchange cryptocurrency. The concept of utilizing blockchain to secure transactions is taking hold in multiple industries across all sectors. Even the NASDQ are toying with Blockchain for security.
So, what is Blockchain? “It is a series of timestamped data records that link together, forming the “chain”. To create transactions, a hash of the previous transaction is recorded and the public key of the recipient is used by the signer, along with the private key of the signer. All transactions require the signer to have their private key; without this, you’re out of luck – no transaction. Blockchain’s intent is to replace an external, trusted third party (including the need for certificate authorities), and also prevent anyone from being able to go backwards and cover their tracks if they corrupted an entry.” https://www.forbes.com/sites/oracle/2018/04/02/can-blockchain-solve-your-document-and-digital-signature-headaches/#5667fd173979
Are you thinking, no way, I can’t understand this stuff, nobody will ever sign on. Well, let me remind you of single word that should push that thought right out of your head. INTERNET.
Dickson, Ben. “Blockchain’s Brilliant Approach to Cybersecurity.” VentureBeat. N.p., 23 Jan. 2017. Web. 31 May 2017. https://venturebeat.com/2017/01/22/blockchains-brilliant-approach-to-cyberse- curity/
Smocovich, Brian. “How Does a Blockchain Work?” Medium, May 7, 2017. Web. 31 May 2017. https://firstname.lastname@example.org/what-the-heck-is-a-block- chain-63b0e48d891e
How Digital Signatures and Blockchains Can Work Together
by Heather Walker (guest) on 03. October 2016 https://www.cryptomathic.com/news-events/blog/how-digital-signatures-and-blockchains-can-work-together
Legally binding blockchain technology transactions
Can we stop using handwritten signatures already? https://www2.deloitte.com/nl/nl/pages/risk/articles/blockchain-technology-legally-binding-blockchain-technology-transactions.html
For those of you who are more visually minded: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3xGLc-zz9cA