Website creates data visualizations of wills
An Ontario-based app for wills and estates lawyers launched this week, and the creator says it can help lawyers avoid making key mistakes.
The tool, e-State Planner, is a cloud-based app that uses a family tree and drag-and-drop visualizations of assets to help clients understand their wills. After clients fill in the information in their profiles, the app will populate the necessary names and clauses and create drafts of common documents like wills or a power of attorney within three minutes, says Jordan Atin, who practises at Atin Professional Corporation and is counsel to Hull & Hull LLP.
Atin says technology will become increasingly pervasive in wills and estates law, and could help stem LawPRO’s recent rise in will-and estates-related claims. There was “real growth” in the proportion of claims from family law and wills and estates in 2018, LawPRO said in the May 2019 edition of its magazine.
“The most common mistake, unlike other areas of law, is inadequate investigation — not asking the right questions and not getting the right answers. Because our area of law is getting more complex all the time, this software we created streamlines the collection of data, and prompts you to ask the right questions,” says Atin.
Atin initially created the app for use in his own practice, then worked with fellow certified specialist in estates & trusts law, Ian Hull, on scaling the app. After demonstrating the app at an estate-planning conference and with beta testers, the app launched on July 2 and is in use by two sole practitioners outside Hull & Hull LLP, says Atin. It costs $19 per month plus $75 per client.
Atin says he has preferred a more visual, interactive way of dealing with clients for at least a decade. He says he previously had a discussion that used a white board to supplement a pen and paper or word processor. The app, which has been in the works for about three years, takes that process and updates it with the latest precedents, and stores the digital data for future use. In addition to a written document, clients can see their assets laid out as a colorful graphic.
The app alerts the lawyer to potential planning opportunities — planning for beneficiaries with disabilities, foreign citizens, tax burdens, indexed gifts or strained relationships. The app also updates figures like probate tax in real time, to show clients the costs or benefits of different decisions. Eventually, Atin says he hopes to add tweaks to adapt the technology for different provinces, and the tool is already being tested by users in Manitoba.
Atin is not the only lawyer lamenting the slow adoption of technology in wills and estates law. NoticeConnect, a Toronto-based startup led by a lawyer, also launched a technology tool in the space this spring, focused on helping lawyers locate lost wills and transfer wills when they retire.
Getting lawyers to adopt new technology is tricky, says Atin, even when the data is secured by password and encryption and backed up on the Microsoft cloud. But he says he plans to do daily tutorials to help lawyers learn his software.
“Technology is coming to our space. Do we think, as lawyers, that every other industry will be disrupted by technology, but not ours? There is no question that this is the future,” he says. “Of course, I would like others to use it. But if not, that’s fine too. I’m using it, and it’s been worth the investment — all I do every day is draft wills. It’s been worth every second, plus it’s cool. It’s cool to think outside the box.”