Since 2017, online estate-planning company Trust & Will has helped more than 200,000 customers plan their legacies since it was founded in San Diego by Cody Barbo, who previously created Industry, a professional network and hiring solution for the service and hospitality industry.
In addition, Trust & Will recently announced a multi-year agreement to become the exclusive provider of AARP member benefits for estate planning. The growth of Trust & Will has been noteworthy, particularly in the last year, with a 300% year-over-year increase in transactions and a more than 250% increase in site traffic (numbers are self-reported). In 2020 as well, the company raised a $15M Series B round led by Jackson Square Ventures.
Micah Solomon, Senior Contributor, Forbes.com; Customer Service Consultant and Subject Matter Expert: What in your situation or background prompted you to start Trust & Will?
Cody Barbo, Founder and CEO, Trust & Will: When I got married in late 2017, my wife and I started thinking about the need to set up an estate plan. We found ourselves quite surprised that there wasn’t a “TurboTax” for estate planning. Having co-founders going through the same life stages (getting married, having kids) it made obvious sense to get to work building a better experience for ourselves, our friends, co-workers, and families, and for the tens of millions of Americans that don’t have access to attorneys or the means to afford one.
Solomon: It surprises me as well that you were able to be the first to take this approach in your industry. What is the landscape of the estate planning industry?
Barbo: Estate planning is overall an antiquated and offline industry, with over 500 years of tradition bogging it down. We knew from the start that while we had a great opportunity, we wanted to meet that with, an intuitive product experience, stellar customer support, and inclusive price points to be competitive and encourage adaption. Everything we did had to be intentional from the start as we faced barriers around trust, education gaps, and procrastination. Three years later, we have 230,000+ members, 1,400 5-star reviews, $23M+ in funding, 42 team members (across 6 states) who are customers of our own product, and we’re fortunate to work with some of the largest financial services companies in the country.
Solomon: Has the pandemic transform the way people handle end-of-life planning in any way?
Barbo: The unknown aspects of COVID were an unexpected shock that helped many younger Americans realize that estate planning is important precisely because you can never know what the future may bring, and isn’t just for older people. Having a plan in place is one small step to protect yourself and your family from otherwise uncontrollable risks.
Solomon: Beyond the increased interest, and particularly the increased interest from younger customers, what trends in your industry have you seen in the past year?
Barbo: The focus and attention on EOL (end of life) tech has been booming. Fintech, digital estate planning, document vaults, caregiver platforms, sustainable burial/cremation, support for family grieving and more are all getting funded. Venture funds like Primetime Partners, Generator Ventures, and individual partners at some larger venture funds are putting big money to work.
Solomon: If you’ll allow me to shift gears, do you have any estate planning tips for my readers who are in an LGBTQ+ relationship (other than marriage)?
Barbo: The legal mechanisms provide protections to spouses in traditional marriages don’t always extend to LGBTQ+ partners. This makes it critically important to have a complete estate plan in place. The default laws that apply when there is no estate plan often do not account for LGTBQ+ partners. Not having an estate plan may leave one partner with no right to make decisions or to inherit assets. The key is to remember that planning for unmarried couples is not the same as planning for married spouses. It’s important to be clearly express what you want to happen as the laws may not provide the desired outcome otherwise.