5 minute read

From CEO Cody Barbo: 2021 Reflections & 2022 Projections

2021 was an exciting year, filled with growth and challenges. Cody Barbo reflects and looks to the future of Trust & Will and the estate planning industry in 2022.

Cody Barbo

Cody Barbo, @codybarbo

Founder & CEO, Trust & Will

As we quickly close into the holiday season, many of us are taking the time to reflect upon the past year and ruminate on what we’d like the next year to look like. This is a practice that allows us to pause and celebrate our wins, learn from our losses, feel in awe of our growth, and count our blessings.  This practice of reflection also helps inform what we’d like for the next year to look like, and how we plan to continue growing and evolving.

As the CEO and Co-founder of Trust & Will, I find myself making these reflections not only for myself, but also for the company, including the team and our valued members. 2021 was a year full of challenges, but it was also a year full of positive change and growth. 

If you have a moment, I would be honored if you joined me in my reflection of 2021. 

2021: A Reflection

Biggest Lessons Learned

True growth doesn’t happen until we acknowledge and learn from lessons. This year, a major theme has been that nothing is ever guaranteed in life. Mournfully, we now have had Trust & Will members (customers of our very own) who passed away this year. They had established their estate plans through Trust & Will, which have been put into action. This goes to the benefit of their families, and ensures that their legacies are long-lasting. None of us are precluded from the seasons of life, and therefore, it’s critical to act now and take advantage of the tools that are available to us.

Always Celebrate Wins

There was much to celebrate at Trust & Will this year. Here are some highlights that I am especially proud of.

Continued Growth

In 2021 we saw tremendous growth at Trust & Will, in terms of the number of members we’re serving as well as the number of employees we’re adding to the team.

To date, we’ve supported more than 300,000 families in starting their estate planning journeys. To keep up with our growing membership, our team has grown as well. The Trust & Will team is now made up of over 60 employees — our team grew three times in just a year! 

We believe in “walking our talk,” which means that 100 percent of our employees have completed their Trust & Will estate plans. Not only that, we continue to maintain our strong, family-first culture.

Awards & Recognitions

I’m also excited to share some of our 2021 accolades. First, we were acknowledged as one of Inc.’s Best Workplaces. I have a lot of personal pride in this recognition, and it is cause to celebrate. This was also our second year in a row making CB Insights’ Fintech 250 list, and it’s an honor to be named alongside some of the fastest-growing fintech startups in the world. We were also listed as seventh (out of 100) in San Diego Business Journal’s Best Workplace rankings. This was also our second year in a row making CB Insights’ Fintech 250 list.

We’re dedicated to building a strong, mission-driven company. We’ve worked hard to build an incredible work-life balance, family-first culture. I couldn’t be more proud to be recognized for this, and we are so humbled and honored to be included in these nationally-recognized awards.

Partnerships & Affiliations

We also solidified a record number of strategic partnerships with some of the best organizations in the nation. Here are some examples:

  • AARP

  • Fifth Third Bank

  • SoFi

  • MoneyLion

  • Haven Life Insurance

Making History

2021 will be remembered as the year that we launched our first national television commercial. It was also the year that we launched the first-ever eWills in several more states: Arizona, Indiana, Utah. (In 2020, we established the first eWill in Florida. In 2019, we delivered the first eWill in history, in Nevada.) We look forward to continuing making history in more states next year. 

Data Security

We also achieved our System and Organization Controls (SOC) 2, Type 1 attestation report. It’s an external audit that attests to the trustworthiness of a service company’s  services and data security. Achieving this status confirms that Trust & Will provides members with the means of setting up estate plans online in a way that is as safe and secure as possible.

Corporate Social Responsibility

In 2021, we remained - and shall remain - committed to our public service. We published our second Annual Impact Report, which outlined the strides we’re making in the environmental, societal, and humanitarian spaces. Last but not least, over 11,000 free Wills were redeemed by frontline workers, including those in healthcare and education, through our Frontline Heroes Initiative. 

COVID-19 & Estate Planning

Trust & Will Interest Surges During the Pandemic

An interesting byproduct of the COVID-19 pandemic is the general populations’ embrace of estate plans. Given the limited access amid quarantine restrictions, Americans leaned into technology more than ever before. They used technology to manage a wide range of their lives, including taxes, insurance, and estate planning. We witnessed record highs in search engine inquiry volumes for online wills and estate plans. We expect that trend to continue growing in the new year.

Global Pandemic Sheds Light on Importance of Estate Planning

As I write this reflection, we are still in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic. Just when we think we’ve turned another corner, another variant breaks out somewhere in the world. Unfortunately, it’s looking as though this could be our new normal for quite some time. While I remain hopeful as vaccinations continue to be offered to adults and children, we still cannot say that we’ve reached the “post-pandemic” era.

What this pandemic has taught us is that estate plans are important — no matter what. Whether you’re a parent to minor children, a caregiver to an aging loved one, a homeowner, a devoted donor to a non-profit, or even a cryptocurrency enthusiast, there is room for anyone and everyone to get their affairs in proper order. This is especially true when we’ve learned the hard way that an emergency or disaster could hit us at any minute. With this pandemic, none of us expected it to be as far-reaching and long-lasting as it was. This is why we’re seeing so many Americans rushing to get their Wills & Trusts in place while they can.

Industry Trends

More recently, we’ve witnessed a demographic shift in which Americans are now planning their estates at a younger age relative to their parents’ generation. There has been a noticeable uptick in Millennial parents and new homeowners who have gone through the process of estate planning. More research and data is required to specify the causation for this industry trend, but one might presume that it is a combination between learning from parents’ past mistakes, and wider availability of online estate planning tools and education.

We’re also seeing more players enter the space from different angles, in terms of digital estate and end-of-life planning. These areas of the industry have been untapped for quite some time, so we see it as a positive sign that more attention and capital have been directed to these areas.

Trust & Will: A Force To Be Reckoned With 

Disrupting the Industry

Here at Trust & Will, we’re focused on (maybe even a little obsessed with) providing our members with the best user experience possible. We have a consistent 5-star rating with thousands of reviews on Trustpilot.com. 

Further, we’re the only digital estate planning platform to have the aforementioned SOC 2, Type 1 certification. Finally, we’re partnering with a record number of institutions and companies. For example, we’re the official estate planning benefits provider for AARP members. We’re also partnered with John Hancock, Fifth Third Bank, Haven Life, SoFi, and more.

2022: A Sneak Preview

Estate Planning Trends in 2022

First and foremost, I expect to see a continuing trend of digitization in the estate planning space. The technology to create an end-to-end digital Will exists. A member could create their Will online with Trust & Will, and get it notarized remotely (we’ve partnered up with Notary, an eNotary service.) However, federal and state laws need to catch up. The pandemic was a major catalyst, and we saw several states begin to recognize Wills that were notarized online, digitally, and remotely from start-to-finish. We expect to continue seeing more states jump onto this trend in the coming years, as they begin to legally recognize remote online notarization services (RON) and eWills.

The second trend we expect and want to see is individuals realizing how crucial it is to include their crypto and other digital assets as a vital part of their estate planning activities. All too often we see individuals pass away without leaving behind any trace of information for their loved ones to access their cryptocurrency. Doing so in a secure way requires foresight, planning, and preparation, which can all be done through a proper estate plan.

Trust & Will in 2022: What’s on the Horizon?

Although I can’t publicly announce any updates yet, I want to let you know that 2022 is shaping up to be a banner year for our core member experience. We plan on launching several new products to consumers across planning, management, and distribution. We can’t wait to showcase the evolution of our platform and the continued value we work hard to provide to families.

In other business, we will continue to scale the channel well beyond the 4,000+ advisors we have today. We will be making significant investments in our advisor product. We’ll also be announcing some marquee partnerships and integrations in 2022.

A Big Thank You

I just want to pause and take a moment for gratitude. Despite a global pandemic, 2021 was a tremendous year of growth at Trust & Will. Growth in terms of our members, our team, our partnerships, products and services, and our ability to give back to the community. This is all thanks to every single one of those who support us. I thank you! 

As I look forward, I am very proud and excited to have the sense that 2022 will be yet another year where we experience robust growth and evolvement. Stay tuned for more exciting announcements coming your way!