Addressing the Will writing gap for your clients
Do you work in an industry that promotes Will writing for your clients? Maybe you are in finance, or insurance, or the funeral industry. Perhaps you work for a charity that promotes the idea of planned giving in one’s estate plan. Maybe you just work in the area of financial literacy, or you work with seniors planning their retirement. There are countless industries that understand the importance of Will writing. But often we find that professionals meet with their clients to discuss the value of a Last Will and Testament. The client agrees, and promises to get their estate planning in order. Only to meet up again a year later and nothing has changed. At USLegalWills.com we have an affiliate program that can help you, and your client.
Most people don’t have a Will
When we created the service at USLegalWills.com back in 2003, it came from a need. We were out with a group of friends; 15 professionals sitting around the table, and one of us mentioned that they needed a Will, but they didn’t have one.
This person knew that as a home owner with a young family, a Will was an extremely important document for them. They felt a little embarrassed that they had not taken the responsible step of protecting their family, by making an appointment with an estate planning attorney and writing their Will. They simply hadn’t got around to it.
They needn’t have felt bad. We then went around the table, and of the 15 people gathered, not a single one had a Will. These people ranged in age from 28 to 60, most were married, some were single, all were professionals, all had responsibilities to family and loved ones. Every one of the 15 knew that they really should have a Will. But not one person had taken the time to prepare one.
This is a serious problem.
Fast forward 15 years, and things are not much different. At USLegalWills.com we commissioned our own survey of Americans with Wills. In summary we found that
- Across all age groups 28.4 percent of Americans had up-to-date Wills. 8.6% had a Will but it was out-of-date. 63% had no Will at all. This means that 71.6 percent of Americans do not have an up-to-date Will.
- Even when we focus on Americans over 35, two thirds don’t have an up-to-date Will.
- Only half of Americans over the age of 65 have up-to-date Wills in place.
- One in six Americans over the age of 65 have a Will that is out of date.
- Wealthy Americans are no more likely to have written their Will.
- Wealthy Americans are more likely to have an out-of-date Will.
Why do people need to write a Will?
Now we know that most people don’t have a Will. Why does this matter?
A Last Will and Testament performs two very important tasks. It allows you to appoint people to key roles, for example, your Executor and guardians for your children. It also allows you to describe the distribution of your “estate” (everything you own). This includes giving specific gifts to particular friends or family members, as well as making any charitable bequests.
An estate without an administrator
Without a Will, the first thing that happens is confusion. Generally nobody knows what is supposed to happen next, nobody takes charge, or multiple people take charge. Immediately, there is in-fighting between family members all trying to establish their own roles and responsibilities in the process.
The next thing that happens is a general disbelief that the deceased would have been so inconsiderate to have not prepared a Will. How could they be so irresponsible? So the family scrambles through important papers, trying to get some direction on what to do next.
Without an appointed estate administrator, it is not uncommon for family to start helping themselves to possessions and family heirlooms. Nobody has been given the responsibility for securing those assets, and nobody has any legal authority to stop anybody else.
Eventually, the courts will appoint an estate administrator. Hopefully not too much damage has been done in the meantime.
A child without a guardian
Your Last Will and Testament is an opportunity to appoint somebody to look after your minor children in case both parents become unavailable. This is a very difficult decision, and is often so difficult that is becomes a barrier to preparing the Will at all.
Unfortunately, if you do not appoint a guardian in your Will, and something were to happen to both parents, then a judge in a courtroom will appoint the guardian on your behalf. Hopefully people will put themselves forward as a candidate, and the judge will choose between those people willing to take on the role.
But the judge will have very little information to go on. They will know the prospective guardian’s relationship to you, their income, where they live, and their age.
The judge will not know, or be able to take into account, parenting philosophies, spiritual beliefs, the existing relationship with the children, or indeed the relationship with you. Would the best guardian be the child’s wealthy uncle living in France, or your next door neighbour with the triplets? Or maybe your seventy year old mother?
It’s a decision that you should be making, not a judge in a courtroom.
An estate without a distribution plan
Every estate has a distribution plan. You can choose whether to write your own, or to rely on the government’s plan. If you die without a Will, your estate will be distributed according to the intestate laws of your State. The laws vary significantly from State to State, but two things you should know;
Firstly, if you are married with children, your estate does not automatically all go to your spouse in most US States.
Also, be aware that the distribution plan created by intestate laws rarely matches the distribution plan that somebody would have planned for in their Will. For example, supposing you were married, living in Alabama with two children aged 21 and 19. If you are like most people, you would choose to leave everything to your spouse, and then create a plan in case you were both involved in a common accident. Leaving your entire estate in equal shares to your two children, perhaps holding the child’s inheritance in trust until they have reached an age that you consider appropriate.
That is nothing like the distribution plan that is created for somebody who dies without a Will. Your spouse will receive the first $50,000 of your estate, and then share the remainder with your two children. So if your estate is worth $500k, your 19 year old will receive $150,000, the 21 year old will receive $150,000 and your spouse $200,000. I have yet to see a Will that creates this as the distribution plan for an estate.
The problem with traditional approaches to Will writing
Why don’t people write a Will? Traditionally, the barriers to preparing a Will outweigh the perceived benefits. With these barriers, it becomes a task that can be postponed until sometime in the future.
The two most significant barriers to writing a Will have traditionally been the cost, and the inconvenience.
There was a time when most people thought that a Will had to be written by an attorney, or estate planning lawyer. This presented two key problems. Will writing was an expensive business with attorneys often starting their fees at $800 for a simple Will. For most, this is a lot of money, but even for people with no financial constraints, it doesn’t represent good value for money. But if you were fortunate enough to not be concerned with the $800 fee, the barrier would likely be the inconvenience of booking an appointment. Particularly if this appointment had to be co-ordinated with your spouse.
Even if you managed to somehow book the time to visit the office of an estate planning attorney, you would probably struggle to co-ordinate this on an ongoing basis every time you needed to update your Will.
The traditional barriers to Will writing have presented an opportunity for online services that have attempted to make the process more convenient and more affordable.
There are currently over 150 Million adults in the US without a Last Will and Testament in place. Most of these people know that a Will is important to them, but the task has just never made it to the top of their ToDo list.
Although we have been offering our services through USLegalWills.com for over 15 years, the number of US adults without a Will has barely changed. An opportunity is there for any business with a client base in need of estate planning documents, who have needs that can be matched with the services at USLegalWills.com.
Our Will writing services are not for everybody. For example, if a client has a child with special needs in receipt of government benefits. Or a client who has multiple assets in overseas accounts around the World. Then advanced estate planning is needed, and even perhaps custom clauses.
But we conservatively estimate that 95 percent of US adults needing a Will could have their needs addresses by the estate planning services at USLegalWills.com. Well in excess of a 100 million people!
Complementing your existing services
We have a variety of partnerships in place already. These affiliate partnerships include funeral services providers, online financial services, charities, tax preparers, innovative digital startups, financial advisors. There are countless market segments that can offer estate planning as a complement to existing services.
Becoming an affiliate partner with USLegalWills.com means that you can direct your clients to a reputable estate planning service. You can offer your clients a discount, and even earn commissions or share revenues on their orders.
The services available at USLegalWills.com
USLegalWills.com has been offering estate planning services since 2003. We started with a Last Will and Testament service, then added the financial Power of Attorney and Living Will services. All estate planning services are available for all US States with the exception of the State of Louisiana.
But USLegalWills.com offers a lot more than simple estate planning. We are unique in the market in our approach to complete estate planning.
One of the most significant challenges in administering an estate is for the Executor who needs to gather all of the assets, and then distribute them according to the instructions in the Will. The problem is, the Executor has no idea the extent of the assets. How do they know that they have located all of your assets and nothing has gone undiscovered?
At USLegalWills.com we have built a number of services to address this challenge. We started with the MyKeyholder mechanism. A proprietary tool that allows you to name trusted individuals who can have access to different parts of your account at the appropriate time (and not before).
We augmented the Keyholder services with the MyMessages service that allows you to prepare messages for distribution after you have passed away. We also have MyLifeLocker – a tool that allows you to document and itemize your assets in one place. We call this service the ultimate Executor handbook. It would contain everything from login credentials for online accounts, investment portfolios, magazine subscriptions, everything that your Executor would need to administer the estate.
Most recently we added the MyVault service, that allows you to upload any file to your account, to be accessed by your keyholder or Executor. This could be a spreadsheet, an unfinished novel, or a family photo.
There are broadly speaking three ways to write a Will.
Starting with a blank page
At one end of the spectrum is writing it yourself using a blank sheet of paper, or a blank form Will kit that you buy from Staples or Amazon. This is usually the cheapest approach and can even in some cases be no charge at all. But it is without doubt that most irresponsible approach to Will writing, and the approach that is most likely to give you a Will that simply doesn’t work.
This approach to Will writing has given the legal profession plenty of ammunition to warn people of the perils of writing one’s own Will.
Working with a lawyer or estate planning attorney
This seems to be a solid approach for preparing a Will, but it is expensive and inconvenient. Interestingly, a study from the UK found that it was no more likely to give you a well drafted Will. But working with a lawyer does come with legal advice. So if you need legal advice on a particular legal issue, then this is the best approach. However, most people don’t need legal advice to prepare a Will.
In talking to our customers we have found that it is not the cost that puts people off working with a lawyer, but the inconvenience. Generally a married couple would have to co-ordinate a visit to the lawyer’s office together. If they have young children, they would need to make arrangements for the children. Then if an update was required, they would have to go through the whole process again. Sadly, not many estate planning attorneys make house-calls at your convenience.
The online Will writing service
Thankfully there is now a middle ground that provides you with the quality of a professionally drafted Will, at the cost of a blank form do-it-yourself Will kit.
Generally, they use the same software used by estate planning lawyers, but give you direct access to it. A good quality online service would be State specific, and be kept up-to-date with changing laws, so immediately it is a clear advantage over Will kits that are generic, and can sit on the shelves for decades.
Not only are they more affordable that estate planning attorneys, but they are much more convenient. The whole process can be completed in about 20 minutes, all sitting in your own living room with your feet up, on an iPad. If you need to make a change to your Will, just login to your account, jump to the section that needs updating, and print off a new version.
People also find that writing their own Will using an online service is an educational experience that makes you think about your estate, and the service presents prompts that you may otherwise not have considered; like trusts for pets, or charitable bequests.
At the end of the process, you are more likely to understand the details of a Will written using an online Will writing service than you would have done by simply sitting in a lawyer’s office.
USLegalWills.com was one of the pioneers of online Will writing services. Launched in 2003, it is not only one of the longest running services, but over time the service has not stood still. Every year since 2003 a major enhancement has been added to the estate planning portfolio which makes it the most complete estate planning tool available anywhere.
At $39.95, USLegalWills.com is one of the most affordable online services. But also the only service that comes with an Executor handbooks, digital vault for uploading files, an Expat Will service for overseas assets, Life interest trusts within the Will, a Messaging service for sending posthumous messages, and countless other value added services.
USLegalWills.com is also the most highly rates service of it’s type with a five star Google rating.
The reviews often make reference to the quality of phone and email support that is offered free of charge to all users.
USLegalWills.com also has the most comprehensive partnership options.
Partnership options for an affiliate
At USLegalWills.com we have three different implementation approaches for our affiliate program. The simplest of these can be up and running in less than 10 minutes.
The most straightforward approach is to sign up as an affiliate. Within your affiliate account you will be given access to code snippets for banner ads and links that can be embedded within your website. By default anybody who clicks through to USLegalWills.com will receive a 15% discount off their order, and you would receive a 15% commission. You can then embed the banner into your website, and it can look something like this
The whole process takes a few minutes.
Of course, you don’t need to have a website for this to work. The associated affiliate reference code for the above banner ad is
If any user applies this code during the checkout process, they will receive their 15 percent discount. So it can be passed to clients on printer collateral or even verbally.
More information on our affiliate program is available on our affiliate website.
Embedded service within an iFrame
The next level of integration is to embed our service completely within an iFrame on your website. This allows one of your clients to complete their estate planning documents without ever leaving your website. Again, it is a simple implementation and does not require any advanced program skills as the code snippets are provided by us. But there is no disguising the fact that USLegalWills.com is providing the service. We process any payments and send order confirmations onto the user.
Many charities have chosen this option.
Full white-label API
This is the most sophisticated option, and it allows you to offer the USLegalWills.com services, but branded as your own. You are able to charge your own pricing, and orders will be processed by you. If you currently have a portfolio of services, or a client portal, this can be an extremely effective way of expanding into estate planning with just a few days of development effort. It allows you to offer the country’s leading online estate planning service, but entirely branded as your own.
More information detailing the technical implementation of the white label API is available on our affiliate information webpage here.
Ongoing relationship with USLegalWills.com
Implementing the affiliate services is not the end of our relationship, but the beginning.
On an ongoing basis, you can login to your affiliate account and see your affiliate statistics. These reports include the number of people who have clicked on a link, and the number of conversions. We have seen conversion rates as high as 14 percent for some of our affiliates.
At any time you can login to your Affiliate account and download a report of every user who has created a Will using your link or embedded service. As well as an update on commissions earned and total revenues.
Everybody benefits from our affiliate program. Your clients who have to date found Will writing inconvenient and expensive, will now have access to the leading estate planning service on the Internet. You may also choose to pass on a discount to your client – Will writing has never been so affordable.
You are able to extend the range of services that you offer your clients. Some affiliates choose to pay for their clients’ Wills entirely, and offer the Will as a perk of being a client. Other affiliates offer our Will writing and charge their clients hundreds of dollars for a Will. This is absolutely fine, because they often offer other value over and above our services.
Our Will writing service can become a new revenue stream for an Affiliate partner if you choose to do this. For an implementation effort ranging from a few minutes to a few days you can set yourself up for an ongoing revenue stream with absolutely zero associated costs.
And of course USLegalWills.com benefits from being able to share our services with a wider audience.
Getting started as an affiliate
The first step is to take a look at our dedicated partner webpage. Have a think about the partnership option that works best for you and your organization.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to get in contact with us. Our locally based support team will be very happy to help.
Tim Hewson is one of the founders of USLegalWills.com.
He has over 20 years of experience helping people to write their Will and other estate planning documents. He has been interviewed by many of the major news media outlets, and has contributed to articles in The New York Times, NY Metro Parents, U.S. News & World Report, and other leading publications. He has also contributed to a number of financial planning books.
Throughout his career, Tim has written extensively on the subject of Will writing and estate planning.
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