Insights from Woody Levin
Woody Levin: Thank you…I think that when you first come up with an idea that is the true “a-ha” moment. A lot of us have these all the time, but not as many people act on them.
With Estate Assist the idea was born over 10 years ago when I saw the inordinate amount of time and effort it took for my father to close my grandmother’s estate after she passed. I said to myself that there had to be a better way. I am a big fan of Marc Andreessen’s adage that “Software Is Eating the World.” It basically says that software is changing interactions in our everyday lives. For example, software in the form of digital textbooks and online classrooms is transforming education as we know it. Software has augmented the travel industry, as we now book trips online and not through human travel agents. I knew that the asset protection space had not yet been eaten, and was somewhere where a software solution could have a huge impact.
Estate planning, asset protection, and the painful logistics after losing a loved one have not been touched by technology and are ripe for innovation. Estate Assist is a solution that is needed by everyone. We all want to protect our families and make sure that our assets are passed on to the people we want. And that is not limited to financial assets. Digital assets including photos, emails, domain names, and the contents of your Dropbox account are equally important to transfer to the people we love.
When we launched the Estate Assist Safe and Safe Plus products on October 1st, 2014 it was after more than a year of planning, coding, testing, and revising. We talked to potential members, and constantly looked to them for feedback and suggestions. We watched how they interacted with the product, and worked to make it easier to use and more intuitive. We are still learning and iterating, but the feedback has been very positive. People are just interested in having a curated solution that can securely and accessibly store their financial assets, digital assets, and important life documents.
MutualFunds.com: Could you share with us some of the most relevant data points in regards to how big the estate planning/protection industry is?
Woody Levin: I am far from an expert on these statistics, and have take them from third party research but can share what I know.
- 73 million American households have life insurance.
- 60 million American households have estate planning documents in place…that still leaves almost 50% of people without.
- $31 billion a year is spent on financial planning.
- Over $43 billion is currently held by states in the form of unclaimed property. This is money and property that should be going to loved ones.
Estate Assist is entering a very large market, and we aim to help a large number of people.
MutualFunds.com: For investors that are reading this interview, what are the main objectives to be considered in preserving the peace of mind your service can help with?
Woody Levin: Investors are concerned with retaining and growing their assets. Safe by Estate Assist helps you take care of those assets. We help you keep track of your assets while you are alive, and help make sure that they go to the right people after you are gone. You don’t have to share access to your accounts now, though you can if you wish to share with a spouse, for example. You maintain control over everything, and only share the stored information when you designate. You get to enjoy peace of mind knowing that if something happens to you, or in an emergency, Estate Assist makes sure that your account information and documents are shared with the people you want.
We all have assets, and many of us don’t know where they all are. Does your spouse, family, or attorney know where all of your bank, brokerage, and investment accounts are? How about all your online photos, documents, and other digital assets? Do they have access to them? Estate Assist helps you to keep things organized in your Safe, and gives you the ability to share your information when you choose.
MutualFunds.com: We would imagine there are many families that are simply not prepared to handle the issues that come with settling an estate after a death has occurred. What would you recommend as the initial steps to take in deciding what plan needs to be put in place?
Woody Levin: I think it is, and will continue to be, overwhelming for most of us when someone passes. Dealing with the loss of a friend or loved one is extremely difficult. Having to find and shut down all of his or her accounts is a long and arduous task that no one enjoys. A great first step in order to get you and your family prepared is to get a few of your main accounts written down and stored in one place. Start with the accounts that you are very familiar with…the ones you access every day.
Once you have a base to work off of you will start to feel organized, and be on your way to protecting your family and your assets. Getting all of your financial accounts, digital accounts, and important documents organized and stored can and should take a while. This is something that you should tackle over time – trying to do it all at once can seem too big and intimidating and cause paralysis. At Estate Assist we have seen that it works best to put information in your Safe in bite-sized sessions, and let our tools and reminders guide you through the process a little at a time.
MutualFunds.com: Besides targeting individuals directly, do you see your service as a benefit that businesses, large and small, could offer their employees as part of a retirement/financial planning strategy?
Woody Levin: Definitely. Our main focus right now is making sure that we continue to build and improve on the Estate Assist Safe offering. That being said, we already have large corporate and channel partner integrations in place, and the feedback from the people who are using the product is very positive.
We have also been contacted by wealth managers and estate and trust attorneys who want to provide Safe to their clients. I think this is a great way for these professionals to offer a digital extension of their practice. It also creates additional client engagement and retention by providing a new point of interaction for their practice.
Companies offer their employees’ 401K’s, Health Insurance, Life Insurance, and more. I believe that in the not too distant future you will see companies offering Estate Assist’s Safe as an employee benefit as well. The protection of your financial assets, digital assets, and important life documents is important to individuals, and companies can provide this benefit at a minimal cost.
The Bottom Line
DISCLOSURE: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors, and do not represent the views of MutualFunds.com. Readers should not consider statements made by the author as formal recommendations and should consult their financial advisor before making any investment decisions.