founders-journey

5 minute read

Our Founders’ Journey: How It Started, How It’s Going

Our founders’ vision on transforming estate planning for millions of Americans.

Cody Barbo, our Co-Founder and CEO, and Mitch Mitchell, our Product Counsel, are speaking at the TLTF Summit, December 4-6, 2023. Ahead of the event, we sat down with them to learn about how Trust & Will got started, how their journey unfolded, and their vision for the future. 

What inspired you to start Trust & Will?

Cody reminisces back to August 2017, when he was in the middle of planning his wedding. He and Daniel Goldstein, now one of Trust & Will’s other co-founders, sat down to talk about life. Cody and Dan had known each other for many years and often bounced ideas off of each other. On this occasion the subject of cryptocurrency came up and Dan wondered what would happen to his Bitcoin if he got “hit by a bus.” 

“Cody,” he said. “You’re getting married– don’t you have an estate plan?” 

Unfortunately, like 60% of Americans, Cody did not have an estate plan.  

It was definitely top of mind for him. Amid the stress of wedding planning, he and his bride-to-be were also talking about the broader strokes of marriage, like finances, insurance, and estate planning. Not being familiar with the traditional process led Cody to make a few discoveries – mainly that, most people set up estate plans with attorneys, spending thousands of dollars and weeks of their time, only for it to be a one-and-done transaction. Could there be a better way? 

Over the next couple of months, Cody, Dan, and Brian Lamb, who became Trust & Will’s third co-founder, ideated on breaking down the traditional barriers to estate planning and making it easier, faster, and more affordable for most of the population. 

Six years and over 600,000 estate plans later, Trust & Will has transformed the landscape of estate planning. “And it’s been really fun!” enthuses Cody. 

Making estate planning more affordable

Cody explains that one of the key problems the founders set out to solve was the historical cost of estate planning. “Traditionally, estate plans are $2000 to $5000 – we’re coming in significantly cheaper.” With Wills starting at $199 and Trusts at $499, Trust & Will lowered costs by orders of magnitude, putting estate planning within the reach of millions more Americans. 

Making it convenient and fast

Something as life-critical as an estate plan should be easy to put together quickly. But until recently, it wasn’t. Cody highlights how cumbersome it used to be. “The offline experience of going to an attorney's office, having to take off time from work, getting a babysitter for the kids – it would take weeks!” 

“The traditional way is too hard and expensive, and requires visiting a lawyer in their office during regular business hours,” chimes in Mitch Mitchell, our Product Counsel. “We’re on a mission to change that! We've helped hundreds of thousands of Americans create a state plan easily and affordably.”

Cody underscores how Trust & Will has made estate planning so much easier. “Now you can do it from the comfort of your own home with us. Our Will-based estate plans take about 30 minutes to get through the flow. Trust-based estate plans take only slightly longer, about 45 minutes. And they’re completely online from start to finish.”

Providing helpful resources at every stage

Trust & Will’s estate plan creation flows are usually easy for most people to breeze through.  “Most of our members don't have to talk to anybody,” says Cody. “But if they want to, there's a couple of layers of helpful resources.”

Cody outlines the helpful resources that customers can easily access:  

“The first is our best-in-class Learn Center, with hundreds of articles on estate planning from everyday 101 content even to complex trust structures.” (Chuckling a little, as if to acknowledge a guilty pleasure in consuming pop culture news, he adds, “We even have an explainer on the Britney Spears conservatorship that was in the news recently.”)

Second, Cody explains that the company is at the cutting edge of using AI technology to help customers. “Our Willow chatbot helps answer questions that most customers would have.” 

Cody saves the third and most important layer of customer support to the last, giving kudos to our friendly and knowledgeable human member support team. “Jason, Ashley, Anna Marie, Avalon, and Meg just take five-star experiences to the next level!”

Attorney expertise for each state

With estate planning and probate laws differing from state to state, it’s important to have qualified lawyers who know the ins-and-outs of the relevant laws in your state. Cody explains that attorney support through Trust & Will now covers almost the entire country and is getting very close.

What milestones are you proud of?

Cody’s pride in Trust & Will’s achievements in only six years is clearly evident. “Six years in, we've raised $48 million in capital and we've helped 600,000 members in all 50 states. We are a certified B Corp. We’ve won numerous awards – such as being ranked among Inc. Magazine’s most innovative companies, included among the San Diego Business Journal’s best places to work, and, most recently, being on Deloitte’s Fast 500 list. I’m proud that our excellence is consistently getting the recognition it deserves.”

Beyond the financials and our growing shelf of awards, Cody is proud of the Trust & Will team’s focus on “taking amazing care of our members,” resulting in near 5-star ratings across the board, from thousands of reviews on Trustpilot.

Perhaps most importantly for Cody and the team, “We're still having fun!”

Revolutionizing probate

For Mitch, one of the areas of quiet pride is Trust & Will’s innovation in the area of probate. It’s a very difficult problem because probate is a process that varies at the county level. But Trust & Will has already made great strides in helping families navigate the state administration. Our products help members gain clarity and reduce stress in the probate process, with help from people who understand the nuances at the county level always at hand. 

As Mitch says, “The Byzantine structure of probate is oftentimes disconnected from the nuts and bolts of asset transfers. But we've learned a lot in a very short time and I'm hopeful our progress and presence in this space will shine a light on a persistent problem.”

What do you see as the future? What excites you? 

After six years of revolutionizing the industry, the company’s vision could not be clearer. Cody says, “The future of our vertical is digitizing the entire trust and estates process, from the creation of the estate plan through the management and all the way through distribution (that is, post-death). And you never have to go offline.”

Ultimately, the goal is to create a modern platform for generational wealth transfer. 

Moving the estate planning industry online

Mitch laments the current state of the industry where financial institutions often require multiple touchpoints with customers at a time when they’re grieving and dealing with loss. Making multiple, potentially intrusive phone calls or processing paperwork after a loved one’s death can be hard on a family grieving for their loved one. Eliminating some of these redundant touch points is a key priority for Mitch. “I'm excited to work with key stakeholders to move the whole of the estate planning industry online,” he says. 

Expanding access to legal services

Mitch emphasizes that it's important that this industry puts money and resources into expanding access to legal services. “Many people cannot afford a lawyer and they are no less deserving of having their legal needs met.” 

Solving traditional problems with technology is an area where he sees great potential in democratizing access to legal services. 

Legal tech and a connected future

Seeing more venture capital flowing into the industry, more companies getting started and funded, Cody and Mitch are both excited about the future of “Legal Tech,” a rapidly growing landscape where technology is increasingly integrated into legal as it has been in other fields like financial services, i.e. FinTech.  

Mitch says that it’s time for the “last bastions of paperwork” to fall. “I think our future is a more connected one where the last bastions of manually processed paperwork like a paper will, a paper death certificate, and a faxed beneficiary form are digitized.”

At Trust & Will, we’re here to help keep things simple. You can create a fully customizable, state-specific estate plan from the comfort of your own home in just 20 minutes. Take our free quiz to see where you should get started, or compare our different estate planning and settlement  options today!

Is there a question here we didn’t answer? Browse more topics in our learn center or chat with a live member support representative! 

Trust & Will is an online service providing legal forms and information. We are not a law firm and we do not provide legal advice.

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