Easing the burden of estate planning.

While the word “estate” evokes images of billionaires on yachts, the misconception that estate planning is only for people with lots of land and wealth is a common one. In the event of our death, we can ease the burden of passing along our estate—which comprises everything we own—by having a plan. But too many people don’t think they need a plan. And the process is expensive, intimidating, and depressing. As a result, two-thirds of Americans who should have an estate plan don’t.

In this case study, we sat down with Adam Schouela, vice president of product management, to see how we transformed the way our customers engage with estate planning.

How might we provide our customers with approachable, actionable estate planning assistance?
Fidelity Estate Planner, opens in new window.: a comprehensive service that helps customers navigate estate planning.

Fidelity Labs startups typically begin by talking to real customers. What did the team learn from these initial conversations? What held people back from estate planning?

Mainly, they didn’t know where to start. They didn’t know about all the components of an estate plan, and they were not familiar with the legal terminology of estate planning. They were very unsettled by the idea of going into an attorney’s office unprepared. 

They needed some foundational education. How did the team respond?

We built an educational website that doubled as a way to get their information in order, so they could go meet with an attorney. But then another issue bubbled up. We learned that they didn’t know where to find an attorney, or even how to judge what made someone qualified to help them.

That sounds like something we’re not able to do.

Right. They told us they wanted a Fidelity attorney, because they trust us. But we’re not a law firm. Instead, we curated a list of attorneys that they could work with to prepare an estate plan.

Two-thirds of Americans who should have an estate plan don't.

Okay, so you provided a way to learn about estate planning, and a way to connect with a qualified attorney. How were these resources received? How else could the team improve this service?

We tested these resources with customers and learned that many people who started the process had trouble finishing it. Estate planning involves many steps, and they were confused about what the steps all meant. 

They needed guidance and guardrails. So, we equipped Fidelity Financial Consultants to help people align their account information with the choices made in their estate plan.

This already sounds like an end-to-end solution. Were there any other missing pieces or challenges you needed to solve before going to pilot?

We still needed a secure way to deliver customer information from our website to the independent attorneys. After talking with colleagues across Fidelity Labs and FCAT, we realized that there was another team that could help us. FidSafe, opens in new window., a new service developed to help people store financial documents, could deliver that information for us.

The initial pilot rolled out to six Fidelity Investor Centers.

What did pilot and transition look like for Fidelity Estate Planner?

First, we rolled out our service to six Investor Centers. With continuous refinements based on feedback, the pilot ultimately expanded to four states: Massachusetts, Illinois, Arizona, and Florida.

We had 53 associates in 10 branches, 59 attorneys at 20 firms, and more than 400 customers participating before transitioning to Fidelity’s Wealth Planning and Personal Trust group for a national rollout. And, in December 2016, the Fidelity Estate Planner, opens in new window. was launched to all Fidelity customers.

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