Pandemic leads to a surge in Americans creating wills

Posted at 3:09 PM, Apr 09, 2020

The pandemic is changing the way many people think about life and the future, asking themselves what will happen if they get sick and are their assets protected.

"People are scared. People are anxious, and it's our job, it's our obligation as a team, to make sure that we can give people peace of mind," said Cody Barbo, co-founder and CEO of Trust & Will.

The San Diego start-up helps people create legally-binding wills online, modernizing the process to make it easier and affordable. Wills start at $69, and you can make one from home.

"We knew that we were going to see an uptick, we just didn't think it would be quite to the extent we've seen it now," said Barbo.

Barbo decided early on to ramp up his team to handle the demand.

Once a customer uses the Trust & Will online platform to create an estate plan, they can choose to either print the documents themselves or have it done by the company. Barbo says his team binds the documents and ships them to customers within a 36-hour window.

Since mid-March, demand for their product has gone up 50 percent each week.

"The way that we've communicated internally with our team is, we're selling umbrellas in the rain versus selling umbrellas on a sunny day," said Barbo.

And starting this month, the company is offering will-based estate plans to all U.S. health workers , free of charge.

"My wife works in the hospital. I have two cousins who are doctors. My wife's colleagues have become like family to us, and them sending photos over the last few weeks looking exhausted, tired, telling us that they're scared and anxious because they have families at home," Barbo explained. "The last thing they should be thinking about is do they have an estate plan or is their estate plan up to date."
To qualify, healthcare workers will need to upload their credentials.

Attorneys say they are also receiving an uptick in clients reaching out.

"It's forcing people to make a choice and decide, what are my wishes? What do I really want?" said April Ball, managing attorney of the trusts and estates division of Antonyan Miranda.

Ball says her San Diego practice is getting flooded with calls, with 40 to 60 percent more a day depending on the news cycle. One of the biggest concerns people have now is their end-of-life care.

"Who can help me with my healthcare concerns? Who should surround me? Who can make a decision? What will happen to me if I get sick? And ventilation and end of life, or termination, questions have really become the forefront, which in the past it was more of an afterthought," said Ball.

She says these are important conversations to have, with or without a pandemic.

"Use this time to really think about and plan to protect yourself instead of panic," said Ball.

"It's better to have an estate plan than to not have an estate plan. Even if you don't have a home, don't have assets, there are still things worth protecting," said Barbo.

Like your pet, or social media accounts.

Much more than a piece of paper, the company says its delivering peace of mind with every order.