This probably will be a game changer in the legal profession. I suspect it will also be a problem for future genealogists who want a copy of an ancestor’s will.
Blockchain Apparatus is a start-up company in Denver that is working on several legal areas, including property and trusts. Its mission is to provide new developments in the legal services industry. The company has found a new application of blockchain technology (see Note #1 below) that works with data available with the federal government database (especially from the US Social Security Administration). This new product makes self-executing digital wills possible.
In the near future, Blockchain Apparatus expects to have a software/network combination which is the executor of a deceased person’s last will and testament. The process will be automated, will run on thousands of computers simultaneously (thereby guaranteeing reliability), and will be visible to everyone (thereby ensuring there will never be a difference of opinion as to the will’s existence).
For the first time in history, it will be possible to hand out the entire process of will administration to a software program running outside of human control. This process will be executed by the code running this software.
The will administration product is linked to the Social Security Office’s Death Master File (see Note #2 below), which is a ledger of sorts that keeps records of verified death reports. Anyone can choose to create a digital crypto-will with particulars of beneficiaries, terms of execution, and so forth. Once the person dies, and his or her records appear on Death Master File, the will gets automatically activated to be executed according to his/her wishes as described in the document.
In other words, a will or testament can be set on a timer so that it is executed automatically upon the death of its creator. The document(s) will be simultaneously very public and also very secret. That sounds contradictory! However, once you begin to understand blockchain technology, you will see how simple it is.
The names involved in the will can be hidden, but the fact that a will exists will be visible to everyone in the world with Internet access. Instead of having each person’s name, physical address, or email address displayed, every person is represented by a crypto address, such as: 355gubKZeMnf9aF3pVP97rzj3uTDxwXyXr. So perhaps the general public can see that a will was filed on a particular date and time and at a certain location but no one knows who Mr. or Ms. 355gubKZeMnf9aF3pVP97rzj3uTDxwXyXr is except for the individuals involved and their attorney(s). Perhaps the local probate court also needs the same access.
Each person involved with the document, including the attorney(s), will be able to decode that address to identify the individuals and also will be able to see the entire contents of the document. However, no one else will be able to decode the address so Mr. or Ms. 355gubKZeMnf9aF3pVP97rzj3uTDxwXyXr remains anonymous, even though everyone can see the date, time, and location where the will was filed and some (limited) information about the purpose of the document.
No, it is not as crazy as it sounds. Thanks to the blockchain, all of this is possible today.
Eric Dixon, member of the Blockchain Technologies Corp’s legal counsel, says, “The Blockchain or the broader Blockchain document goes to the heart of most family and surrogates’ court litigation. It provides better evidence of the actual intent, at a definable, fixed time, of the person making the will or the ‘testator’ in legal parlance.”
The Blockchain probably will replace notaries.
My question is this: How will descendants of the deceased obtain copies of their ancestor’s last will and testament in future years?
Note #1: Blockchain technology did not exist a few years ago but recently has become very popular. It provides a high-security, highly-reliable method of verifying transactions. Blockchain is a glorified ledger that was first created for use in the Bitcoin crypto currency network. However, many national banks, the US and UK governments, and individuals around the world are now adopting blockchain technology to provide verifiable proof of various transactions, such as wills, property transfer deeds, banking, stock market transactions, and much more. The blockchain can record information about money, deeds, energy usage, legal documents, airline tickets, college credits earned, or most anything else.
You can find more information about Blockchain Apparatus at the company’s web site at: http://blockchainapparatus.com/. You can learn more about the new trusted will and testament system at: http://insidebitcoins.com/news/blockchain-apparatus-launches-a-new-trusted-will-system/31516.
For a non-technical explanation of blockchain technology, see The Human Blockchain: Bitcoin Explained Without Technology at https://cointelegraph.com/news/the-human-blockchain-bitcoin-explained-without-technology. A somewhat more technical explanation is available in a YouTube video, shown below and also available at: https://youtu.be/oSP-taqLWPQ.
For a non-technical explanation of Bitcoins, see my earlier articles, Bitcoin: The End of Money As We Know It at https://privacyblog.com/2016/03/24/bitcoin-the-end-of-money-as-we-know-it/ and Still Don’t Get Bitcoin? Here’s an Explanation Even a Five-Year-Old Will Understand at http://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-explained-five-year-old/.
Note #2: The term “Death Master File,” or DMF, is the name the Social Security Administration uses for the database of recent deaths. Most genealogists know it by another name: the Social Security Death Index, or SSDI. The two products are essentially the same thing.