The COVID-19 crisis showed us that financial advisors are uniquely positioned to help their clients. Advisors have had to react to volatility in both the markets and their client’s income status. They have been changing plans mid-course, working through contingency plans, and working to maintain their client’s peace of mind.
Forming client financial plans and ensure they’re adequately insured is a great way to give clients a sense of control during uncertain times.
One great way to ensure that your clients are fully covered is to ensure they have a will.
57% of Canadians don't have a will and advising your clients to have a will is an important way to reduce their stress while helping them get their finances in order.
But creating a will is such a complicated and daunting procedure that many clients shy away from it or put it off till another day.
Enter Willful, a Toronto based company, making it easier for Canadians to create wills by themselves.
Willful was founded as an alternative to traditional estate planning, and it allows Canadians to make end-of-life arrangements quickly and easily. Customers are guided through entering basic information including their name and date of birth, as well as the names of their beneficiaries.
When the customer is finished filling out details about property, gifts, and beneficiaries, Willful generates a document (or documents depending on the package selected) and provides instructions for how to make it legally binding by having it signed in the presence of two witnesses.
We sat down with Erin Bury, Co-founder and CEO at Willful and delved into the importance of wills and how financial advisors can encourage and help their clients to create one easily.
Below are the highlights from our conversation and you can watch the full video above.
About Erin Bury
Erin is an entrepreneur, speaker, startup advisor, and former technology journalist. She is the co-founder and CEO at Willful, an online estate planning platform that makes it easy for Canadians to create a will in less than 20 minutes. At Willful she’s responsible for driving the company’s mission to make it easier for Canadians to prepare for and deal with death in a digital age. Erin is a frequent speaker with Speakers’ Spotlight, and has appeared in publications including The New York Times, Forbes, and CNN. She is a board member at Save the Children Canada, and a member of the #Tech4SickKids advisory council for SickKids. She was named one of Marketing Magazine's top 30 Under 30 marketers, and her claim to fame is being retweeted by Oprah – twice.
In Conversation with Erin Bury
I wanted to start by giving you a bit of background.
I'm a journalism grad who has started tech companies my whole career. But I got interested in estate planning after my husband and co-founder Kevin’s uncle passed away suddenly a few years ago.
And his uncle had a will, but had never discussed all of the things outside of the will – funeral plans, burial wishes. So it was just a really big mess for his family to clean up. And this was at a time when we were in our early thirties and we were using tools like someone to buy insurance and using fintech apps.
And although, of course, we worked with an advisor we thought, why does it have to be so antiquated to go through the estate planning process? Why does it have to be so unapproachable? You know, going to a lawyer, it's really scary, complex and expensive.
And why is there no good way to spark those conversations and record those wishes, knowing that most of us at some point in our lives will have to wrap up a loved one's life?
Kevin then had a couple other brushes with death. After that initial incident, he was in the hospital for a week and thought, you know, if I were to pass away now, I would be putting my family through the same thing that I am trying to avoid with what happened to my uncle.
So finally we decided to embark on launching a company, that just makes it easier for Canadians to prepare for their own passing and that makes it easier for their families to wrap up their estate. That's really the problem that we're trying to solve.
Canadians just aren't thinking about or talking about their legacy.
So research with Angus Reid found that 57 percent of Canadian adults don't have a will. Two thirds of parents with minor children don't have a will – arguably, the group that needs it the most.
And about one in 10 wills are out of date.
Which I'm sure you experience as well – either a client doesn't have a will or they have one but it's been sitting in a filing cabinet for 30 years and it's out of date because they have had children and gotten married, gotten divorced, moved provinces, etc…
We also did some research with advisors recently, and we found that over half of advisors discuss estate planning in their first meeting with clients. It's one of the first things that they bring up.
Almost 100 percent of people discuss it within the first year of working with the client. Three quarters of advisors believe that a will is the cornerstone of a solid financial plan. Obviously, we believe that as well.
And when we asked advisors, you know, what is the percentage of your clients that actually have a will? Well, when you start working with them, the majority said, you know, between 25 and 30 percent. So most clients are not walking in the door with a will.
And even if they are, there's probably a good chance that it is out of date. We also asked advisors, you know, what are the top reasons that clients cite for not getting a will and the reasons include:
CapIntel: How can we get clients to finish their wills?
The first step is really highlighting the importance of emergency planning due to COVID-19.
The unexpected can happen at any time and we saw that this spring.
A good way to highlight the impetus for creating a will is to outline the intestacy rules in your province.
If someone passes away without a will, they died what's called intestate. And there are a set of default rules in your province that outline how their assets would be distributed.
Ninety nine percent of the time, those default rules don't match up with what your client would actually want. So if you highlight those defaults, that can be a really big impetus for them to get their actual wishes down on paper.
Really highlighting the peace of mind. I mean, this is something that we all often talk about in relation to Kevin's uncle and the experience that we had when he passed away. If we had had clear wishes from him, both in the will and outside of it, I think we would have saved a lot of, you know, just wondering whether we were doing right by him.
It's for their family. And they're setting them up for a much easier time after they pass.
Creating an effective estate plan means minimizing taxes on the estate, especially through setting up things like real alternatives. So that's a really great way to highlight. Hey, you work hard for your money. Do you really want to hand over a bunch of that to the taxman unnecessarily after you passed away instead of that ending up in your beneficiaries pockets?
We spend our entire lives building wealth. So the idea of a will is to pass that on intelligently and ensure that as much as possible ends up with beneficiaries.
And then a major one for us at Willful is highlighting that dependents will be cared for. You know, that they have a plan for minor children or even pets. If you have younger clients, they often say, I don't need a will. I'm not old, I'm not rich. And we always say, maybe not. But you have a dog. And one of the main reasons that pets end up in shelters is their owner didn't plan for them. So get a will, if only to plan for your furry friend and to leave money for your pets care.
But the ultimate answer at the end of the day is we're still trying to figure out how to motivate people to finish their will. It's always going to be something that includes procrastination.
Ultimately, making it as easy as possible is also another way to help them do that.
How does Willful partner with financial advisors?
Our goal is really to create a suite of tools that helps people prepare for and deal with death in a digital age.
We started with helping people create legal documents, the wills. But we have big plans for creating a whole suite of tools that help executors, that potentially even help advisors with helping clients complete their estate planning.
So how does that work? We are kind of like the Turbo Tax for estate planning. So similar to Turbo Tax, we are not right for your complex clients. We are not right for your high net worth clients, who have assets in multiple countries and multiple businesses and they need to create a million different types of trusts.
I mean, there are a bunch of complex cases that we can't handle, but we're very ideal for customers who are single, married, divorced or are Common-Law and have assets in Canada. They have kids, they have investments and they don't have a ton of special requests or conditional gifts. Those are exactly the right type of client for Willful.
You can also always know that if you send someone to us, we're gonna be the first to tell them it's not the right fit.
So how does it work?
We partner with the state lawyers in each province. They write all of our legal content from the ground up to adhere to provincial regulations. Your clients would then answer a series of questions. It's very user friendly, extremely intuitive and very similar to Turbo Tax.
There are no legal fees and we have a really comprehensive learning center and support center that helps them out along the way. We also provide phone support.
I've got email, social media support, etc., so that, you know, your clients are getting a really good experience. And then again, because we talked about the limitations of the law, your clients then would print and sign their documents and have them witness correctly and then they could store the original copy with you if they wanted. And we also provide free registration on the Canada Will Registry, which is worth forty dollars.
We can offer a discount code that you can share with clients so that they save on their willful plan.
For the full conversation and the discount code watch the video above!
Check out Willful today!