Co-Founder & CEO, Willful
Through their transformation from a startup to an established technology leader, Intuit has continued to include their entrepreneurial spirit in everything they do. They believe that technology can help power prosperity for all Canadians. For Intuit, everything starts with the belief that people deserve the opportunity to prosper.
The Intuit Prosperity Accelerator has curated an inaugural cohort of leading tech startups. These solutions are positioned to help solve specific financial challenges that Canadian consumers and small businesses face in the wake of COVID-19. One of these startups is Willful, an online estate planning platform that allows Canadians to make end-of-life arrangements from the comfort of their own homes. Co-Founder and CEO Erin Bury discusses how Willful supports clients in the creation of their will and power of attorney documents, while making uncomfortable topics accessible.
What made the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator the right fit for Willful?
Prior to Willful, I ran a marketing agency that worked with tech organizations, and Highline Beta was one of our clients. I had the chance to work closely with their team and learn more about how they work to close the gulf between startups and corporates, and I admired their work with companies like RBC and Aviva. The day they announced the Intuit Prosperity Accelerator I saw it in my social feeds and applied immediately — I’d be shocked if I wasn’t one of the first applicants. I knew I wanted to work with them because of the caliber of their team, the framework they built to encourage collaboration, and of course the opportunity to partner with a strong brand like Intuit.
As a fintech startup, how has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Willful?
As a software company, it was relatively easy for us to transition to remote work, so our operations weren’t affected — though of course we’ve had to adjust to virtual team culture. But just like many small business owners, we were concerned about the impact the pandemic would have on our business, especially because we had a sensitive product at a time when Canadians were scared and anxious about their health. We saw a big influx in the number of visitors and customers in the first couple months of COVID-19, and it really highlighted to people that the unexpected really can happen anytime, so it’s good to have a plan in place. We also closed a round of financing in May, so it was interesting to navigate fundraising during a pandemic. At the end of the day, we’re just grateful that we are a business that not only survived, but thrived during a time when so many other founders have faced challenges.
Estate planning is often surrounded by uncomfortable and stressful conversations. How can Willful change the way that Canadians think about this undertaking?
At Willful we’ve worked hard to reframe the conversation about end-of-life from one that’s sad, stressful, and uncomfortable to something that’s about empowerment, peace of mind, and legacy. Ultimately, we all pass away, and no matter when it happens, we all want to reduce the burden on our families and leave behind a positive legacy. By thinking about it as something that’s not for you, but for your family, it makes it easier to prioritize. Increasingly I think we can destigmatize conversations about death, both internally and with our loved ones, and get to a place where it’s just another topic around the dinner table.
Traditional will creation is a lengthy legal process. How does Willful manage to condense this to a 20-minute online service, that still holds legal weight?
In Canada, what makes a will legal is how it’s created, signed, and witnessed, not who creates it. You can write a will on a piece of paper, use a will kit, or visit a lawyer — Willful is providing something in between. We partner with estate lawyers in each province to draft our legal content and provide a TurboTax-style experience to our users, guiding them through a series of questions about their unique life situation, and providing customized documents they can print and sign (which is required by law). For people with simple situations, it can be a lot more affordable, accessible, and convenient than visiting a lawyer — though we advocate for getting a will done, regardless of which avenue you choose to complete it.
What’s the biggest obstacle that Canadians are facing as they create legal wills in the middle of a pandemic?
One of the requirements for a will to be legally-valid in Canada is that it’s printed and signed on paper — and witnessed by two people who also signed the documents, and those witnesses cannot be beneficiaries of your will. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March, we heard from so many Canadians who lost access to printers, and who didn’t want to get together with extended family members or friends to sign their wills. So, the biggest obstacle has been the law keeping up with technology. Thankfully the pandemic has accelerated the pace of legal change, so I expect we’ll see truly digital wills become legal in 2021.