Planning for death is a topic most people want to avoid.
But a tech entrepreneur who faced tragedy at a young age, believes she can get the conversation going with a new end-of-life organizing platform geared toward advisors.
Launched in June, Everplans Professional is the brainchild of Abby Schneiderman, a 35-year-old who witnessed firsthand what can happen when a loved one doesn’t plan ahead for his or her demise.
A few years ago, Schneiderman was rocked by the death of her brother in a car accident, leaving her family scrambling to make decisions on their own.
Out of that loss, the idea for a consumer app that lets people gather their estate plans, health care proxies, financial account information, final wishes -- even their obituaries -- in one place, was formed.
Based on the answers to a few simple questions, the site creates customized to-do lists, setting the framework for an end-of-life strategy. These “Everplans” can be shared with “deputies,” who will have access to some or all of the information.
“We are marrying guidance with planning tools to create a complete one-stop-shop for estate planning and beyond,” Schneiderman says.
Now, Schneiderman and her Everplans co-founder, Adam Seifer, are betting financial advisors, insurance agents, and estate lawyers will use the recently launched professional version of Everplans to better serve their clients and expand their businesses.
Advisors who sign up for Everplans Professional can co-brand the tool and offer it to their clients. The cost is generally $2,500 a year to cover 200 customers.
A key feature of Everplans Professional is a personalized dashboard that tracks a client’s progress. An advisor can see what a client is working on, or spot a gap in his or her plan and then reach out and start a conversation.
“It allows advisors to drive relationships, uncover holes in their clients’ planning and fill in the gaps,” Schneiderman says. “The tool is an ice breaker.”
So far, 40 professionals have signed on, she says. FIM Group, a wealth management firm, is offering the digital estate planning tool for free to clients in its Onalaska, Wis., office.
Jeffrey Lokken, a CFP with FIM Group, says Everplans is helping the firm deal with its large population of elderly clients.
Lokken has seen many become mentally incompetent or pass away, leaving family members, executors of estates and others struggling to gather information.
“I wanted to facilitate a way where those persons could work through the process with all the same information,” he says.
Lokken says Everplans is also helping FIM Group establish stronger ties to the next generation, upping the chances that the firm will continue to manage assets once a client has passed.
But for some advisors, the potential benefits may not be enough to justify the $2,500 annual fee, says Michael Kitces, director of research at Pinnacle Advisory Group in Columbia, Ma., and publisher of the Kitces Report.
“When an advisor can get full-fledged financial planning software from MoneyGuidePro for barely half the price and use it as the core of their financial planning business, it’s hard to envision $2,500 a year for just digital estate planning support,” Kitces says.
Because Everplans stores personal and financial information, security is an obvious concern.
The site uses a two-step verification during login and all personal information is encrypted and protected using bank level security.
Scott Brewster, a CFP and president of Brewster Financial Planning in Brooklyn, N.Y., said he still has concerns.
“There have just been too many cases of virtual vaults having security breaches,” Brewster says. “It will take more than a company saying their data is safe, encrypted and secure to make me comfortable.”
In the meantime, Schneiderman and Seifer are working to advance Everplans to make it more appealing to advisors.
Coming soon is a feature that will allow professionals to prepopulate a plan, as opposed to having clients do it themselves.
The end-of-life entrepreneurs, who have so far raised more than $6 million, are looking to expand the audience for Everplans to financial institutions and employee benefits providers.
“Everplans isn’t for everyone,” Seifer deadpanned. “It’s only for people who are going to die someday.”
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