BestowIt – Ultimate Asset Distribution - Can a Smart Contract Replace a Paper Will?


  • Mary and Jane


We are born. And we die. In between, we acquire property and possessions, following a protocol that culminates in passing these assets on to future generations. For centuries, the Will has been a document coordinating this redistribution protocol. Making a valid Will is complicated and expensive. A recent UK study found that 60% of UK adults don’t have a Will. This problem is not unique to the UK. If there is no Will, or the Will is not valid, the law and the courts determine redistribution. The current redistribution protocol does not meet the needs of the modern world. The Will needs to be reimagined to create a redistribution protocol that removes the morbid finality factor, tracks and allocates asset acquisitions in real time, and simultaneously tags assets for future redistribution.

What is the existing target protocol you are hoping to improve or enhance?

The redistribution protocol, asset acquisition, tracking, allocation and redistribution by a Will, is an ideal use case for smart contracts supported by AI.

What is the core idea or insight about potential improvement you want to pursue?

Under the current protocol, assets are acquired, and then, much later, the holder decides who will inherit those assets. The BestowIt project will refine the redistribution protocol so that the first three steps, asset acquisition, tracking, and allocation, occur in real-time. An ultimate asset distribution instruction (UAD) identifying the intended redistribution recipient of the asset will be created when the asset is acquired and attached to the asset as part of a smart contract, which will execute the UAD at the time of need. All of the asset holder’s UAD will be combined in a smart contract that will replace the Will. If an asset is sold, the UAD falls away, to be replaced by a UAD created by the new owner. AI will be used to improve areas of the protocol which have traditionally slowed down the redistribution process, such as locating beneficiaries.

What is your discovery methodology for investigating the current state of the target protocol?

In this phase of the BestowIt project, the focus will be on whether UAD can be done within the parameters of UK legal statutes and smart contract technology. UK law was selected because it has testamentary freedom, meaning that the testator can leave their property to anyone they choose, which will allow more complex UAD to be created.

In what form will you prototype your improvement idea?

Two models will be created: (1) a smart contract UAD Will; and (2) a paper Will with the terms of the Will are set out in a UAD smart contract which is incorporated in the paper Will. Both models will incorporate AI to manage steps in the redistribution process (e.g. locating missing beneficiaries).

How will you field-test your improvement idea?

The BestowIt models will be subject to two tests: conformity to the letter of UK statute and UAD effectiveness of execution (assets transfer to the correct beneficiary).

Who will be able to judge the quality of your output?

Two law professors at the University of Law, London, will evaluate the legal elements of the BestowIt models. The BestowIt models will also be brought to the attention of the UK Law Commission, which recently published a consultation regarding changes to UK Wills law.

How will you publish and evangelize your improvement idea?

When a protocol applies to 100% of the population, and only 40% follow it, there comes a time to stop focusing on why the current protocol isn’t being followed and focus on how the protocol can be improved to achieve the required adoption. That time is now.

The BestowIt project will serve as a catalyst to start a conversation about how technology can be used to improve an existing legal process. An academic paper, articles, legal publications, videos and blogs will support this conversation.

The BestowIt project will also be presented at tech conferences, including DevCon in Bangkok, as part of an ongoing discussion of what happens to your Eth when you die.

What is the success vision for your product?

The BestowIt project will have met its objective if it:

  • Inspires conversation about changes to the current redistribution protocol.
  • Demonstrates that technology solutions can achieve the objectives of the law.
  • It creates the foundation for the practical application of tokens, smart contracts, and AI that can benefit humanity.

Nice work combining smart-contracts and a real world protocol. As a non-tech normie, I can understand the concept and would consider using the product. As a bonus, I can see this protocol serving as gateway for encouraging technically challenged users to interact with blockchains. With these practical uses, on-chain protocols will be able to enjoy the much larger network effects they’ve been busy promising.

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Thanks for your perspective. Activating interest on a ‘deathy’ topic where we are all going to live forever is not always a party fave!