Easy Estate Planning For a Generation Who Neither Thinks About it or Can Afford It

Scott Kitun

April 16, 2019 · 5 minutes read

 

Our listeners can get $10 off at Trust & Will by entering TECHNORI at checkout.

 

Before his wedding, Trust & Will co-founder Cody Barbo sat down for an “adulting conversation” with his then-fiancee. Setting up joint checking and life insurance was fairly straightforward. But he quickly noticed there was something missing.

 

“Being a millennial, digital-first consumer, I have an app for everything,” he says. “How is there not a TurboTax for estate planning?”

 

As a serial entrepreneur, Cody saw a huge opportunity. The legal landscape of wills, trusts and guardianship is complex and stubbornly analog. Plus, “for somebody who is just experiencing big life events for the first time, attorneys are just too expensive,” he says.

 

Cody Barbo, co-founder of Trust & Will

At the same time, his friend and co-founder, Daniel Goldstein, started thinking about digital assets like cryptocurrency investments, iCloud data and social media accounts. What happens to them if you get hit by a bus?

 

Cody and Daniel teamed up with their former San Diego State classmate Brian Lamb to found Trust & Will in 2017. The result is a friendly, approachable UX with affordable pricing and the ability to set up simple plans in 15 minutes or less.

 

Estate planning shouldn’t be forced upon you in the worst of times, Cory says. “It should be an act of love.”

 

Trust & Will is gaining traction quickly. The Techstars Anywhere 2018 company is innovating like crazy and has raised $2 million to date.

 

Cody called into the pod to talk about how their product is changing how we leave our legacies.

 

Cross-generational market fit

 

When they dug into the statistics, they were fascinated. It’s a $170 billion industry, yet “half or more adults don’t have an estate plan,” Cody says. “It’s unfortunate, but 40 percent of boomers still don’t. Neither do 50 percent of Gen Xers and 80 percent of millennials.”

 

“The market wasn’t serving all these demographics, let alone our own. That was the impetus for launching the company,” says Cody.

 

Half of millennials are now 30 to 40, he says. “90 percent of children born are to millennial parents, and 50 percent of homes are purchased by us. Those are the two biggest inciting incidents toward setting up an estate plan.”

 

Unbundle to disrupt

 

Trust & Will works by “unbundling” components that are often prepared or sold together: guardianship plans, wills, and trusts. This lowers the bar of entry, Cody explains, so that anyone with any assets at all can find something that suits their needs today, in the early stages of their family and/or career.

 

“Any estate planning attorney will try to sell you a trust-based estate plan, a revocable trust, most commonly. I don’t think consumers even really know what a trust is,” Cody says.

 

Trust & Will’s site explains it all in plain language. You can take a quiz to help you identify what kinds of legal documents you actually need. “We make the whole experience very approachable and more importantly, affordable. Estate planning can be very expensive. We want to unbundle it  –– like offering cupcakes instead of the whole cake. We provide offerings that meet your specific life situation.”

 

Kids change everything

 

Trust & Will’s primary target demographic is parents with minor children. That’s when sh*t gets real, he says.

 

“Regardless of wealth, if you own a home or not, if something were to happen to you, you must appoint legal guardians for those children. If you talk to anybody who’s set up an estate plan, across the board that’s the number one reason.”

 

In January, Trust & Will launched a brand-new product, Guardian. It’s the first of its kind: a legal contract in which you specify guardian(s) for your children. Even for the will and trust-averse, it’s an irresistible entry point at $39 with a five-minute setup. It’s even possible to appoint a guardian for your pet. (Meow.)

 

Force of will

 

The company’s core product is a last will and testament: “Essentially, who gets your property, your finances, and what your final wishes are,” Cody says. “Do you want to be buried, cremated, or rebirthed into a tree?”

 

Here’s where you can specify who inherits your beloved vinyl collection, Twitter handle, or Bitcoin wallet. You can complete the forms online, says Cody, but in the end (at least for now, in most states), the documents still have to be printed and signed by a notary public and witnesses. “The law’s still a bit archaic, but that’s what makes it legally valid.”

 

Speaking of planning for the future…

 

“The coolest thing happening in estate planning, and one of the reasons why we started the company, is that the regulatory landscape is changing,” says Cody.

 

In January, Trust & Will completed the first completely electronic will in US history, in Nevada. Using a startup partner in Boston called Notarize, the “papers” were signed digitally via a FaceTime call with a notary and stored in the cloud.

 

“That’s the future,” Cody says, noting that estate planning is among the last industries to devise a wholly digital solution. “More states will activate it this year.”

 

What else is on the horizon? I’m guessing it starts with a block and ends with a chain.

 

“Blockchain and smart contracts into our tech stack is on the near term road map,” says Cody. Identity verification at every step is an important move forward that protects all parties involved.

 

Growing trust

 

The company’s premier product is a revocable trust. “It provides protection from probate court,” Cody explains. “When you die, even if you do have a will, your assets are probated.”

 

The probate process can take a year or more, depending on the state. It’s a messy, bureaucratic nightmare. “Trusts can provide the protection that bypasses probate.”

 

For low annual subscription fees, you can add to your estate plan as you buy property, have kids or make new investments. Compare that with the billable hours you’d rack up consulting an attorney upon every life change.

 

“As I continue to grow my family and my wealth portfolio over time, I can move upstream into a higher tiered product that fits my lifestyle,” Cody says.

 

Whatever Trust & Will customers choose, it’s a step-by-step process. “We’re only ever putting one question in front of you at a time,” he says. That’s by design. “Our entire team is mostly older millennials. Half of us are married parents. We’re almost selfishly building products for ourselves.

 

“Our mission is to help everyone leave a legacy.”

 

Our listeners can get $10 off at Trust & Will by entering TECHNORI at checkout.