Trust & Will Raises $2M to Advance Digitization of Estate Planning

Xconomy San Diego — 

[Updated 9:30 a.m., see below.] Roughly half of American adults have no legal document that details how their assets should be distributed when they die.

The team at Trust & Will, a San Diego-based startup founded in October of 2017, is betting that a good chunk of those people would shell out some money to outline an estate plan if the process were cheaper and easier.

On Thursday, the company announced it closed on financing of $2 million—half a million in pre-seed funding and a subsequent $1.5 million in seed—in 2018 to advance its growing suite of products, digitized estate planning documents of varying complexity. The company also announced that it had partnered with Notarize, a Boston-based startup, to offer what it believes to be the first ever “end-to-end” digital will in Nevada, the first state to allow electronic signatures on such documents. [Updated with information on Notarize partnership.]

Trust & Will says about 10,000 people have downloaded its signature product, a set of estate planning documents anchored by a living will and testament that it launched in April. The product costs $69 (plus another $60 for a spouse) and takes about 15 minutes to complete, according to the company.

In recent weeks the 10-person team, based at San Diego’s Downtown Works co-working space, has launched two additional products: a pricier set of documents centered around a living trust, which would allow beneficiaries to avoid probate court ($399, plus another $100 for a spouse); and a less costly option that allows parents to name guardians for their dependents ($39, plus another $10 for a spouse). Each purchase permits unlimited updates for a year; for unlimited updates after that, it’s $10 annually.

Trust & Will’s products aren’t the only ones out there. Other companies, such as LegalZoom, also offer estate-planning services for those looking to get documents quickly, don’t want to pay an estate-planning attorney, or both. But the startup claims its service is easier to use than its competitors’.

For CEO Cody Barbo, the financing indicates a comeback of sorts: He was previously CEO of Industry, another tech startup he co-founded in San Diego. The company offered a LinkedIn-style platform for the hospitality industry, and raised more than $2.3 million to advance the software. A few months after the funding was announced, Barbo was ousted from his role as chief executive.

Soon after, he founded Trust & Will and took third place in San Diego’s largest pitch competition, the San Diego Venture Group’s QuickPitch. In January, the company joined Techstars as part of its Anywhere cohort, which allows companies to participate virtually (mostly). In addition to Techstars’ investment, which it makes in all companies it accepts into its accelerator programs, Trust & Will also got early backing from Wolfpack Ventures, Walket Capital, and angel investors; those supporters also backed its seed round, the company said.

Barbo’s co-founders are Daniel Goldstein, chief operating officer, and Brian Lamb, head of product.

Investors in the seed round also include Revolution, the venture capital firm run by AOL co-founder Steve Case, whose Washington, DC, Rise of the Rest Seed Fund invests in entrepreneurs outside of traditional hotspots; Silicon Valley’s Western Technology Investment; Halogen Ventures, the Los Angeles-based firm founded by Jesse Draper, the daughter of Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper; and early-stage investor Luma Launch, in Santa Monica, CA.

“While it is always fun to hypothesize what new markets could be created due to advances in technology, some of the most compelling opportunities are often in longstanding industries that have been slow to innovate for various macro, regulatory and social reasons,” said Revolution partner Colin Greenspon, in prepared remarks. “Trust & Will is transforming estate planning in time for the largest wealth transfer in history to current generations and beyond.”

Barbo said the company will put its fresh financing toward hiring a few more employees, marketing, and product development.