The Estate Tech Revolution Is Picking Up Speed

One of the growing trends in the financial advice industry is advisors talking (and for the most part, just that) about leveraging estate planning to both add value for current clients and to create stronger connections with their families (aka potential future clients).


In response, the past few years have seen several tech companies (largely founded by financial professionals) create products to facilitate the estate planning process for clients, advisors or both…




Steve Lockshin’s Vanilla, after unveiling its fully integrated estate advisor platform in mid-2023, then announced its own partnership with Vanguard in January of this year after a successful trial run with some handpicked investors.


“Vanguard bet on us early as a series A investor, and they’ve long bought into Steve’s vision,” said Vanilla CEO Gene Farrell, “so we like to joke that this has been a 2 1/2-year overnight success.”


“Recognizing that some clients have intricate estate planning needs that will span multiple generations, implementing Vanilla’s capabilities supports our commitment to helping clients achieve stronger financial and legacy outcomes,” said Massy Williams, principal and head of wealth management at Vanguard.


One advantage of Vanilla’s wider outlook is that its also finding fans among estate planners. Accelerant is one of the nation’s most tech-forward estate planning firms, and founder Dana Foley is involved with Vanilla, both as a consultant in its development and an end user herself. For Foley, though, the value add of estate tech like Vanilla is less about finding new services to offer her clients, but in allowing her to subtly change her relationship with them.


“The billable hour model stymies communication among attorneys clients and advisors,” she said.


By shifting some of the labor-intensive drafting and data gathering work her team once did on a billable hour basis to be handled more quickly by technology at a flat fee, Foley not only finds more time to spend with clients but also said her relationship with them is improved by not having to produce as intense an itemized billing of her time working for them.


“It makes the relationship less transactional,” she said.




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[David H. Lenok,]

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