SEATTLE — A Seattle-based tech company is tackling a tough subject, and it's starting with offering a way to create a free will.
Joshua Heckathorn is the co-founder of the Tomorrow app, which has nearly 250,000 users and growing. He lost his father at the age of 19 and learned the importance of having plans in place.
When Heckathorn was in his 30s, he realized what a difficult process it is for families to establish an estate plan.
"I did it, and I spent all the money, probably over $3,000," said Heckathorn. "At the end of it I thought, 'Well, that was pretty terrible. There has to be a better way. There has to be an easier way and a more affordable way for the average American."
The app walks users through a number of estate planning items, including creating a will, determining guardians for your children, forming a trust, and evaluating life insurance. Users can create a will for free. If users want to form a trust, it costs less than $40 a year.
"Last I looked, only 5% of Americans utilize the trust," said Heckathorn. "It’s traditionally only used by the ultra-wealthy in our country. There’s a real negative connotation that’s applied to trusts but there are lots of benefits, not only privacy but portability. If you move around the trust is portable, and it moves with you from state to state."
Trusts also help you bypass probate.
"You don't want to just leave that decision up to the state," Heckathorn explained. "You want your wishes to be carried out."
The Tomorrow App is free, though there are service upgrades.
Here is what the app can help you do:
Question: If they’ve never done any kind of planning, what do they need to do?
Heckathorn: "For young families especially, get the will in place and choose guardians for your child. You’ll sleep better at night knowing that if anything were to happen, your child will go right where they want them to go and to be raised in the way that you want them to be raised."
Question: What is a trust and why do people need it?
Heckathorn: "A simple way to think of a trust is kind of like a secret box where you can put things. One of the first things they put in a trust is their primary residence. If something were to happen to you, and you were to pass away, you can choose how your assets would be distributed to your loved ones and heirs over time. The cool thing about the trust is that it keeps it all private."
Question: What about life insurance?
Heckathorn: "People think, 'Oh, I have that in place, I’m okay.' But the reality is if you look at your needs, especially if you have children, all of a sudden half a million or $1 million in life insurance isn’t all that much to provide for your family. So, it’s really important to look at your life insurance needs and make sure that your replacement income that would be provided for your family is sufficient."