Announcing Forward Estate Planning: 80% DIY, 20% lawyer

Nearly one year ago, I began working on an idea. My goal was to find a better way to do estate planning. A way to make estate planning faster, cheaper, and more convenient. A way to get more people the legal documents and knowledge everyone should have. My idea was to do simple estate planning in groups.

Lawyers traditionally work with clients one-on-one. This makes lawyers expensive. If the lawyer has two clients with similar situations, he has to repeat the same work for both. He has to explain the same things, answer the same questions, give the same advice, and draft the same documents. With estate planning, these things take a lot of time.

When I started my practice, I was determined to be different. I didn’t want to do estate planning the same way it had always been done. I started by keeping my estate planning documents short and simple; not boilerplate, but not stuffed full of legalese. I kept my overhead low; I didn’t lease a fancy office or hire an employee. I charged only flat fees and kept them as low as I could. But in the end, I found myself following the same basic process of one-on-one meetings with clients over several weeks. My fees were quite reasonable compared to other lawyers, but still out of reach for the kind of clients I’d like to serve most. I found there was a floor to how low my fees could go.

Not long after starting my practice, I volunteered at a local Wills for Heroes event. The Wills for Heroes program gives estate plans to first responders. It also happens in groups. Each event takes place over just one day. The first responders read educational material and fill out a questionnaire beforehand. On the day of the event they watch an educational video in a big group. Only then do they each have a short one-on-one session with an attorney, who reviews their questionnaire, answers their questions, generates their documents, and makes sure any issues are identified. After that the first responders sign their documents. It’s incredibly efficient, which is why it works.

I remember talking to another attorney at the time, someone who didn’t practice estate planning. He thought Wills for Heroes was great—but why not Wills for Teachers, or Nurses, or Everyone? That stuck with me. It’s true that estate planning is not accessible for most people. It’s either too expensive and inconvenient to work with a lawyer or too uncertain and risky to do it yourself. That’s why so many people don’t have one.

Wills for Heroes showed me that group estate planning can work. Since then, I’ve been slowly working on my idea. When my practice got busy, I had to put it on hold. When I found some time, I would work on it some more. I decided to make it an online program. I decided to use an app for guiding participants through the process. I decided to make it a month-long program, with each week focusing on a different aspect of estate planning. And so on.

Now, finally, I’m ready to pilot this program. I’m announcing Forward Estate Planning, a new way to get your Wisconsin will and powers of attorney online and with confidence. I’m looking for a small group of 10 first adopters to start August 3. More than that, though, I’m looking for feedback.

If you’re interested, please read about Forward Estate Planning at forwardep.com. Then let me know what you think. Can you imagine yourself or someone you know paying for this program? Do you think the price is appropriate? What concerns or questions do you have?

Whatever your thoughts, send them to ben@bswright.com. I think I’m onto something here, and I’m excited for where it might lead. I’d love to know what you think.

Announcement: Updated name and new Somerset office

I am updating my firm name from Wright Law to Wright Elder Law and updating my logo to match. This is a small tweak to better communicate what I do to the people who need an elder law attorney. I’ve learned that the demand for lawyers who can help older clients and clients with disabilities far exceeds the supply. I want to put the people I help and the legal problems I solve front and center.

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This is a change in name and branding only. I still provide the same services: estate planning for people of all ages and Medicaid planning for families facing the immense cost of long-term care. Everyone benefits from estate planning that takes disability and public benefits into account.

This update is also spurred somewhat by my opening a second office in Somerset, Wisconsin. When I started my practice two years ago in River Falls, that is where I thought my family would live long-term. It’s a beautiful city and a wonderful community. But housing markets and timing have landed us in Somerset—a town we’ve found beautiful and welcoming in its own right.

In these past two years I have also seen a great need for legal services in the more rural areas of Wisconsin not far from River Falls and Somerset. I’ve helped clients in Ellsworth, Spring Valley, and Plum City; in Baldwin and in Glenwood City; in Amery and in Clayton. Now, with offices in both River Falls and Somerset, I hope to meet more of that need.

My recent article in Wisconsin Lawyer magazine

I recently wrote an article about elder law practice for the May issue of Wisconsin Lawyer, the official publication of the State Bar of Wisconsin. I had a lot of fun talking to many other elder law attorneys about this practice area and what makes it so great. It turned out longer than I’d anticipated, but I enjoyed writing it.

Click here to read it.