What is Blockchain and Why Should You Care?

Senior Law News | Apr 27, 2022 | Letha Sgritta McDowell

In incredibly simple terms, blockchain is a shared ledger that details activity and transactions of specific assets. The ledger is instantly updated and shared among participants which facilitates instant access to information among participants and avoids the necessity of duplicating efforts. As a transaction occurs, it is recorded as a block which is then connected to the block that came before it as well as the one that comes after it. Transactions are blocked together in “chains.” Once a transaction has been recorded, it cannot be undone. If an error is made, a new transaction must be entered to correct the error.

The idea of a ledger is not unique; in fact, many conventional databases store the same information and provides the same information to those with access to the database. However, blockchain is decentralized meaning that identical copies are spread across a large network. In order for a new transaction to be added to the chain, multiple computers, called nodes, must verify the transaction before it can be added to the chain. The result is increased security since multiple nodes must confirm the legitimacy of the transaction before it can be added to the chain. In addition to adding security, the requirement for multiple nodes to verify a transaction also increases accuracy.

Blockchain became known because of its use as the public ledger of bitcoin. Many still assume that block chain is still only used for cryptocurrencies; however, blockchain technology has spread far beyond cryptocurrency. Currently, blockchain technology is used in the financial services industry, for contracts, for gaming and NFTs, in the mining of precious gems, in the monitoring food supply, travel and transportation, healthcare, manufacturing, and more.

While blockchain technology has not been widely used in the legal industry, the opportunities are endless and the technology is undoubtedly coming. A company from Japan is rumored to have started developing a self-executing estate administration system using blockchain technology. The idea is that the assets in a trust would automatically be distributed to the appropriate beneficiaries immediately upon the confirmation of the death of the grantor’s passing.

While many still consider blockchain technology to be understood by only those with deep backgrounds in computing and IT, the reality is that blockchain technology has spread to mainstream industries and is already widely in use. While its use is still primarily with larger corporations and industry, there are signs that it will become pervasive and familiar to all households. So, while you may never have thought blockchain technology was something you needed to be concerned with, it is likely that you’ve already had an encounter with blockchain…and you weren’t aware and that it will be at your door soon. Understanding what it is and how it works will allow you to make an informed decision about how you want to integrate blockchain technology into your life.


ASK DAN & RIGGS

Hook Law Center: Hey, Dan and Riggs! Is having a dog good for a human?

Dan & Riggs: Dear Reader, we are so glad you asked! There have been quite a few studies on the health benefits of having a dog for humans. Among a few findings are:

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  • Having a dog makes you more attractive to a potential mate
  • Having a dog improves cognition and decreases agitated behavior for adults with dementia

As you can see there are lots of reasons to have a dog in your life!

Letha Sgritta McDowell

Attorney, Shareholder, CELA
757-399-7506 | 252-722-2890
[email protected]

Letha Sgritta McDowell is a Shareholder of Hook Law practicing in the areas of estate planning, elder law, special needs planning, estate and trust administration, asset protection planning, long-term care planning, personal injury settlement consulting, guardianships & conservatorships, and tax law. Ms. McDowell’s clients range from high-net-worth individuals with over $75 million in net worth to families with limited assets.

Ms. McDowell is a past President of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys and was named as a Fellow of the prestigious American College of Trusts and Estates Council (“ACTEC”) in 2020. She is certified as an elder law attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation (“CELA”) and Board Certified as a specialist in Elder Law by the North Carolina State Bar Board of Legal Specialization. Furthermore, McDowell is accredited to prepare and prosecute claims with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Ms. McDowell is currently the chair of NAELA’s strategic planning committee, a member of the Board of Directors for the North Carolina Chapter of NAELA, and a member of the Board of Directors for the Purdue Center for Cancer Research. She is the former Chair of the North Carolina State Bar’s Elder Law Specialization Committee and is the former Editor-in-Chief of “Gray Matters”, the newsletter for the Elder Law Section of the North Carolina Bar Association. She is a consultant for InterActive Legal and has worked on several law and technology initiatives including IBM’s Watson project. Along with her experience practicing as an attorney, she has dedicated much of her time writing for national publications including, but not limited to: Wolters Kluwer, Wealthmanagement.com, the NAELA Journal, Trust & Estates Magazine and many more.

Practice Areas

  • Elder Law
  • Estate & Trust Administration
  • Estate Planning
  • Asset Protection Planning
  • Long-Term Care Planning
  • Special Needs Planning

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