While it takes just a simple look around to see that people consume things differently than they did 20 years ago, Bentonville attorney Chris Woodard says many Americans have not changed the way they approach one key area of their lives.
Consumers are increasingly willing to use services from Amazon to Zulily to fulfill their needs. Still, many presumably tech-savvy professionals in the workforce avoid thinking about what will ultimately happen to the assets they have worked so hard to acquire.
Woodard, a Jonesboro native who practices law in Northwest Arkansas and Texas, said that research shows 60% of Americans don’t have a will, and 80% of Millennials have done no estate planning. To address the situation, Woodard and his wife, Jenna, who is also an attorney, have founded a company separate from their law firm called [email protected]
It is not a law firm but a service provider for employers, Woodard said. The premise is that most consumers don’t get a will because it is costly, they don’t want to talk about death and some do not want for whatever reason to deal with a lawyer.
Woodard said he believes the service can be attractive to employers who want to attract and retain the best employees at a time when a quality workforce might otherwise be difficult to find. He has spent the past year working up all the materials, getting software designed to handle the workflow and testing the product.
“Our pitch to a company is you’re already making these investments in these employees in terms of providing health insurance, vacation time and a 401(k) with an employer match,” he said. “Why not offer them an additional benefit of the opportunity to create a basic estate planning package?”
The company goes directly to employers to have them agree to provide the [email protected] service as an employee benefit.
“We’ll then schedule a time for our team to visit your office. We’ll answer questions and begin sign-ups for services,” Woodard said.
The next step is to have employees sign up for a time slot on the [email protected] website and provide initial estate details online. Representatives of the firm then meet with employees at their office for about 20 minutes to answer questions and finalize their estate planning, Woodard said. The company then does all the witnessing/signings, and the employee’s simple estate plan is set up.
Though some national online companies can provide primary forms for clients, Woodard said those providers sometimes don’t follow through after the paperwork is mailed. Instead of getting you three-quarters of the way there, Woodard said, [email protected] makes sure the documents are executed.
“Employees can execute [the documents] at work to get a basic estate for a one-time very low cost for the employer,” he said.
Employees walk away with an estate planning package for one or two people that includes a last will and testament, a statutory power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney and a living will. A beneficiary deed and a revocable living trust can be created at an additional cost.
“The great thing is if it is provided by an employer, the employee gets a great estate plan base they can build on, one they can grow as the size of their estate or their family grows,” Woodard said.