For over 500 years, estate planning has been an antiquated, costly, and offline industry. As such, research has shown that because such services have mainly been available to the wealthy, the industry has contributed to wealth inequality by providing the means for the rich to shield assets from taxation. But as the demand for an easier, affordable, and modern estate planning services continue to grow, new firms and professionals are breaking down these barriers and on-line tools are allowing them to provide such services to a newer and more diverse set of consumers.
For instance I recently discussed these topics with Cody Barbo, Founder and CEO of Trust & Will a digital estate planning and settlement company that addresses this growing demand by simplifying estate planning and probate with attorney-designed documents that are customized to fit a family’s needs and are legally valid in all 50 states.
Since launching Trust & Will in 2017, Cody has been dedicated to make estate planning affordable and inclusive for every family. Read below for more about this industry and Trust & Will and why Cody believes achieving B Corp Certification, helps a company stay true to its core values every step of the way. We also discussed the shifts in the industry and how Trust & Will is using its growing influence to make a real, positive impact beyond just making a profit.
Marquis: How has the estate planning industry changed over the past few years, and how has Trust & Will evolved to accommodate the changes? What sets Trust & Will apart from the competition?
Barbo: Trust & Will is at the forefront of an exciting movement within the estate planning industry: the legal recognition and acceptance of eWills. During the COVID-19 pandemic, it became abundantly clear that the traditional method of executing a Will can be prohibitive. More and more states are adopting laws allowing residents to create, manage, witness, and even notarize their wills online. This not only makes estate planning more convenient, it makes it more accessible.
We offer the capability to execute an electronic will with remote-only notary (RON) services (through our partner, Notarize) for residents of states that recognize them as legally valid. Even if your state does not yet recognize eWills, you can still create your Will online with us and mail your documents.
Coupled with our affordable price points, we're helping democratize a historically archaic and cost-prohibitive process. We are optimistic that, along with our lobbying efforts, the nation will widely recognize eWills in the near future. We're making moves to help make estate planning accessible and affordable for all Americans.
Marquis: How is Trust & Will using its influence to create a positive impact beyond financial gains?
Barbo: We at Trust & Will are committed to positively impacting several areas, including legislation, sustainability, and philanthropy. As mentioned, we are a part of a growing movement to make estate planning more accessible for Americans, which requires legislative change. We provide the technology, affordability, and education to increase equity in this space.
We're also committed to making a positive environmental impact. We are a climate-positive workplace and have partnerships with the organizations Ecologi and Bend to do our part in reducing our carbon emissions.
If you ask my team what Trust & Will is known for, "giving back" will be one of the top answers. Philanthropy is a large part of our identity. We offer employee matching of donations in-kind to charitable organizations, have several corporate donations and sponsorships, and donate estate plans to frontline workers, teachers, veterans, and families in need. We also provide regular paid time off for employees to volunteer at their organizations of choice.
Marquis: What are the biggest benefits to becoming a B Corp?
Barbo: Earning the status of a B Corporation is like receiving a badge of honor to wear with pride. Because the standards are so high and the certification process is so rigorous, a level of integrity and regard comes with a successful certification. This gives our organization a sense of purpose and empowerment that makes us feel good about even the littlest things we do in business.
Not only is this an impactful achievement for Trust & Will, but it will do so much for our organization and culture as a whole. People identify with the B Corporation label, meaning our employees, customers, partners, and investors will care more.
Marquis: What advice would you share with other CEOs if they asked you about pursuing B Corp certification?
Barbo: The B Corporation website offers a certified company database, so look them up and follow your favorites on social media. Look at how they market their business, with or without the B Corp logo, and benchmark them with their counterparts. You will quickly begin to feel these companies are inherently more successful. Not only is their marketing better, but you'll feel better buying their products or services as a consumer. My subconscious training leads me to look for that B Corp and 1% for the Planet logo on products or websites, as it indicates the organization cares about more than just its bottom line and seeks to do good in the world. That's the kind of company I want to find myself aligned with. As an entrepreneur, this can give you an idea of what kind of missions and values other B Corporations embody.
Marquis: What’s next? What does Trust & Will plan to roll out in 2024?
Barbo: Getting our B Corporation certification is a cause for celebration, but it's only a starting point. In 2024, we'll look at how we can improve across the board: governance, workers, community, environment, and customers. One of the critical reasons for pursuing this designation is to ensure accountability, allowing our organization to continue expanding its positive impacts year-over-year. We are also in the process of becoming a Delaware Public Benefit Corporation, so stay tuned!