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Settling Estates on the Web

Estate Logic shows some promise, but is there a market for it?

Joel P. Bruckenstein, 11/13/2008

Clients generally do not look forward to estate planning, but it is something that needs to be done. Unfortunately, roughly 50% of Americans don't even have a basic will according to FindLaw.com. Even assuming that your client does have an up-to-date estate plan, the odds are that he or she will be bequeathing some headaches to the executor of the estate--someone who is often a close friend or a relative. An executor is responsible for carrying out the directions set forth in the will. Responsibilities of the executor include making an inventory of all assets, approving of disapproving creditors claims, claiming insurance proceeds and other benefits, obtaining information about heirs, distributing bequests to heirs and charities, and more.

In addition, although not necessarily a formal duty, some executors get involved in the softer side of estate settlements, such as passing on family stories that the decedent wants preserved for future generations or carrying out personal wishes that fall outside the scope of the will.

Executor's Resource is a firm dedicated to making the process of settling estates easier. The conceptual underpinnings of Executor's Resource  were developed by, Myra Salzar, CFP, of The Wealth Conservancy, a fee-only financial planning firm that specializes in inherited wealth. Simplifying estate settlements might sound like an ambitious goal, but the firm has a well thought out plan that just might succeed.

Executor's Resource recently launched its first product, a Web-based application called Estate Logic. The firm plans to offer the application through multiple sales channels including online retail banking and employee benefits plans, but the financial advisor channel might prove to be the best fit for a product of this nature, because this is the type of offering that is sold, not bought. By that I mean most people do not wake up in the morning and say "Hey, I think I need to purchase an online tool that helps me organize my estate." This is the sort of product that the client needs to be encouraged to use by a trusted advisor, and it is the sort of product that requires monitoring and updating; these things are more likely to be done if the advisor is involved.

The advisor edition of Estate Logic includes two components: an advisor Web site and the client Web site. To get started with Estate Logic, you must first register with Executor's Resource as a "partner." Currently there is no charge to register as a partner, although it is likely that a one time charge will be instituted in the future. Registrants are sent an e-mail with a user name and a password granting access to the advisor Web site.

At the top of the entry page is the Estate Logic branding. To the right of that is a picture that can be replaced by your firm or your organization's logo.

On the left of the page, advisors can update their password and contact information. On the right is the place where users customize the client-facing portal. Here, you can upload a picture of yourself and up to four lines of text. This information appears on the "My Profile" tab of the client's portal, along with all of their personal information.
Below that is the practice-management section. Here are links to the Implementation guide, marketing templates, and service templates and a short paper that helps users segment their client base so they can target the best candidates for the service first.

The marketing section currently includes the following templates: A client introductory e-mail message to help announce the new service to your clients, a brochure, a marketing message for you client statements, a sample news release, and a short article about selecting an executor for use in a client newsletter. Currently, there are four service templates to share with clients. Each is an action plan and a checklist that corresponds to one of the four sections of the client Web site.

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