The Serenity Shield team has previously reserved this space for high-minded discussions of our guiding philosophy, elaborating on broad trends in the industry, and so forth. While that type of content remains important and will continue as part of the repertoire as time passes, Serenity Shield also has designs on improving the space itself by also providing more practical content.
One of the most significant shortcomings of the digital asset space is the lack of reliable, objective information relating to the realities of operating in the digital asset sector. While the digital asset space does have a tendency to let the sizzle of the sector take the lead in the public forum, the community deserves better – much better. Therefore, the Serenity Shield team intends to step into the breach and provide at least some of what the space needs.
This week, we will focus on something a little more prosaic and down-to-earth – estate planning. While it is essential to discuss the “big brain” issues that tend to demand so much proverbial ink, at some point, the technology needs to work for us. It needs to solve real-world problems. It needs to improve our everyday lives and the lives of those around us. It needs to do so in both qualitative and measurable ways. What good is waxing philosophical about the nuances of democratic self-empowerment metanarrative if no actual problems get solved?
Whenever the topic of estate planning gets brought up in this space, the stories tend to revolve around stories of bad luck. Stories about dead billionaires are always a decent bet, as are the irksome topics of lost seed phrases and hacking. Rarely, though, does the discussion stray from those particular subjects. That is unfortunate, as the realities and implications of decentralization will almost undoubtedly present a much broader, more complicated set of problems for many of us. As they say, though, forewarned is forearmed.
Trouble on the Estate
For anyone who has had to endure the bittersweet experience of dealing with the estate of a loved one, we know that the process can be a ponderous and complex one. These types of events tend to be mercifully infrequent for most of us. Still, it is precisely this infrequency that makes these types of events simultaneously so important and so challenging to navigate well.
In the United States, the average estate settlement process takes more than 15 months. Even after 18 months, only 80% of all estates will have been fully settled. While the size and complexity of the estate in question can affect the length of time, the duration of the process largely depends on whether the estate owner managed to put any advance planning into place. The particulars for your specific case depend on your country of domicile and a whole host of other factors. Regardless, estate planning is a concern across the globe.
Even as we quickly progress into a more tokenized and digitized age, estate planning often still requires a great deal of actual paperwork. Proof of ownership often resides in some dusty courthouse file repository, bank vault, or registered account, and that will remain the case for non-cryptographic assets for at least the foreseeable future.
With the advent of the digital age – and more importantly, the digital asset age – the world is beginning to change irrevocably. The current physically-based paradigm of proof of ownership is quickly becoming moribund and unnecessary. But even as the digitization of assets will eliminate some long-standing analog complications and problems with estate planning, it will nevertheless usher in a whole host of new, novel, and far-reaching problems with which we as a society have not yet even begun to grapple.
Not Your Keys, Not Your Crypto
Digital assets essentially belong to whoever holds the keys. They can be better understood as digital bearer assets – hence the well-worn phrase, “Not your keys, not your crypto.” This is why scammers and hackers cause so many problems and represent one of the greatest everyday hazards for those of us already active in the space. If, for whatever reason, you happen to lose your keys, you lose your assets – very simple.
This problem tends to be a digital asset-specific problem. Indeed, these problems can sometimes apply to other bearer-type assets like specie and bullion, bearer bonds, or valuable collectables. Unlike physical assets, digital assets come with their own unique complications that relate directly to the underlying technology and how it functions.
Digital assets have the additional characteristic of being massless, cheap to move, and free and easy to store. That opens them up for an entirely new constellation of potential risks. As the decentralization trend continues and blockchain technology seeps into previously unexplored territory, the fact is that no one can completely anticipate every new risk. As Web3 and decentralized finance more broadly supplants their more lo-fi predecessors, staying ahead of the curve through prevention and good planning becomes vital.
With a Capital T and That Rhymes With P and That Stands for Probate
Without a well-devised and forward-looking estate plan, complications tend to arise. In the United States, for example, the court will appoint a personal estate representative for formal probate administration. Also known officially as an executor, they will be authorized to act on behalf of the estate, collect the assets of the deceased, manage creditor claims, and make distributions to the ultimate beneficiaries of the estate. This is not an enjoyable process for most.
While family members generally prefer to serve as personal representatives, that does not always lead to a positive outcome. When a family member passes away, not only must those still alive cope with the loss of their loved one, but they must also undergo the emotional and often fraught process of administering the estate of the decedent.
Of Mice and Men
Sometimes, even well-crafted plans go awry. As Robert Burns once wrote, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men, Gang aft a-gley”. Even with estate planning in place before death, not everything can be anticipated. In situations involving significant amounts of assets or complex family arrangements, unanticipated disagreements and conflicts arise between and among the surviving heirs. With digital assets on the verge of entering the picture in a pretty impactful way over the next decade, people will face problems that simply did not exist previously.
Let us consider an unfortunately morbid but very possible hypothetical situation. You pass on, sadly. Luckily, you were able to share your authentication data with one of your surviving heirs, the executor of your estate. The person you designated as your executor can decide to keep your digital assets for themselves, choosing not to disburse them according to your wishes. The very nature of digital assets makes it possible for your parting wishes to be ignored.
While this sort of shenanigans happened all the time in the pre-digital world and still persist, there is almost always a paper trail associated with such things. The analog world also moves much more slowly. Digital assets are, for all intents and purposes, immediate, right now technology. While the assets are on the blockchain – which means they create a digital trail whenever a transaction or exchange occurs – there is no official registry of ownership beyond your digital wallet. No bureaucracy exists to oversee and manage property exchange in this space. There is no paper trail and no central records repository for digital assets where we can confirm the chain of ownership of a particular cryptographic asset. Cryptocurrencies are, the reader will recall, digital bearer assets. The person who has the keys owns the assets.
Truth be told, this is a very young problem. Digital assets remain firmly in their infancy and the people who have encountered any of these problems probably only number in the thousands. Still, the problem exists, just as the problem of dying without passing the information along at all exists. Doubtless, this problem will grow in size and seriousness in line with the overall adoption of digital assets and the tokenization of all things everywhere. We must be vigilant. We must become our own sentinel for serenity.
A Bulletproof Solution – Present and Future
Serenity Shield is a necessity for anyone operating on the blockchain. Our solution addresses several problems and potential complications specific to digital assets. This problem will almost certainly apply to the broader market as time passes and tokenization penetrates ownership documentation. This trend, while still early, is nevertheless predictable.
Serenity Shield is developing our solution for recent problems and for problems beyond the horizon. Our solution is chain-agnostic, and we will continue developing our technology to provide our solution for any future forms of valuable data as they arise. We are a non-custodial facilitator of private communication and data protection. Our solution empowers our users with a secure means of providing an orderly, safe, secure means of transmitting critical data to a designated recipient. The team believes our solution to be a fundamental breakthrough for the entire Web3 ecosystem and decentralized finance as well.
Our Fundamental Commitment
When Serenity Shield was originally envisioned, the first conceived use case was to facilitate estate planning and information transfer. The core purpose of Serenity Shield is to facilitate the transfer of critical data from one person to another. For estate planning purposes, that amounts to providing a reliable and secure means of transmission of information from the decedent to the successor.
As you have probably read over the past few months, Serenity Shield is committed to one thing above all else – individual digital freedom. Whether discussing digital rights, data privacy, or digital security, the Serenity Shield team carries the torch for data privacy and security. We see our solution as one of the most powerful and effective tools to help users gain stewardship over their property, both digital and otherwise.
On the news front and pertinent to the discussion at hand, the Serenity Shield team is excited to announce the public beta test of our DApp, to take place over the upcoming weeks and months. The public beta tests serve a vital role in the development because the team intends to serve the needs of our community above all.
Also, please join us on our Telegram channel. There, you will be the first to know about official project announcements and developments. Additionally, you can also find us on Twitter, Discord, and our website. Please visit our whitepaper and previous articles here for a more in-depth discussion of our project. We are always available on all of our platforms to assist with your questions.