Trakti Smart "Legal" Contracts Blog

Digital inheritance: how blockchain and smart contracts can secure the transfer of rights to digital assets

on May 27, 2024

Business is going digital and digitisation has spread throughout all areas of private law, including inheritance law. “Digital inheritance” is a term in law, and refers to the transfer of rights to digital assets.
A Digital asset can be defined as a personal property owned by an individual which is stored in a digital form, therefore any digital data that a person leaves, after his death, stored on diverse types of digital devices and in the cloud. This includes a multitude of digital formats and their respective metadata: from your online accounts, including banking information, to social media passwords.

Current Trends and Solutions

According to Reuters: “Around 11% of the 2,000 British people surveyed by the Center for Creative & Social Technology (CAST) at the University of London for their “Cloud Generation” report said they had included internet passwords or plan to include them in their wills in a trend that CAST labelled “digital inheritance”. 
A survey by hosting company Rackspace (Rackpace Hosting 2011) estimates “that British consumers, between them, have ‘digital assets’ stored ‘in the cloud’ that are worth some £2.3bn”. 

Apple, with its iOS15 version, has already announced the introduction of the ‘digital will’ feature. This feature allows access to our profile for a selected number of contacts who will receive a QR code to be activated only after our death. Once access is approved, the heir contact receives a special Apple ID to be configured and used to access the account. All information saved by the user through iCloud backups will no longer be lost.

However, Apple still needs to get legal proof of death to activate digital inheritance.  Apple’s note reads: “For security reasons, Apple requires and verifies legal documentation… Generally, a death certificate is required, and sometimes even a court order or other documents. Requirements vary by country and region”. 

Facebook and Google also research further testamentary solutions. Facebook gives the possibility to elect one’s heir who can transform our profile after death into a “commemorative” one. Google allows its users to decide after how long they can inactivate their profile, or designate a trustful person to manage their contacts after death. 

In the past, people used to leave written notes with their relevant passwords as a testamentary will to allow their heirs to get access to their online accounts in case of disability or after death.  

But this solution is not safe. 

Electronic wills on a blockchain, also known in the UK as ‘crypto will’, are already being created.  Blockchain provides a new alternative to securing and encrypting one’s digital assets: writing your will on the blockchain and automatically executing it via Smart contracts. 

On the Ethereum blockchain, in particular, Smart contracts can be exploited to correctly encode the policies themselves in executable format.
This means that the testator can list his assets and private key on his will, making this inaccessible to anyone, except the beneficiaries. But if the key holder dies without sharing their private key, his assets on the blockchain cannot be retrieved.  
In order to avoid incurring similar scenarios, when dealing with intangible assets, legal advice is always encouraged. 

Blockchain might provide a high level of guarantee, conservation, and immutability of testamentary dispositions by attributing certainty and authenticity to their date and signature. 
Smart contracts might allow the execution of the testamentary provisions upon the occurrence of a death event. 

The ‘digital will’ could be one of those legal transactions that could reap the benefits of the blockchain which might eliminate some of the strenuous and expensive court battles arguing over a digital inheritance. 
This digital ledger technology can record from financial transactions to ownership of physical assets. Every record is encrypted and time stamped. 

Trakti: Pioneering Smart Contracts for Digital Wills

Trakti is the first contract automation end-to-end platform to embed Smart contracts on blockchain. Our platform is no-code, meaning that everyone can easily work on it, no specific knowledge of coding is required. 

Trakti Smart contracts are legal codes that carry similar legality to a paper contract. They can automate or self-execute various contract-based processes, as a testamentary disposition. 

Our Smart contracts, based on blockchain, could be used to build a new form of sui generis and “intelligent” will, giving a certain and authentic date and signature to the testamentary provisions and automating the execution of the succession process, from the moment of registration of the death certificate in the blockchain.

The UK Law Commission has referred to Smart contracts as ‘the technology which runs on blockchain and by which legal contracts may be executed automatically.’ 
Trakti transforms old contract templates into intelligent contracts that can easily deploy Smart contracts in the blockchain. 

With our Smart contracts, there is no need to rely on mediators for their execution. 

Our end-to-end platform improves trust and efficiency among the parties and ensures compliance with any contract management process, signature and payment included. 

To learn more about Trakti Smart contracts and its features, click here:

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