Saturday, May 17, 2014

FairDocument: 80/20 Estate Planning

By Kara Shacket

Jason Brewster is the CEO and founder of FairDocument, a low-cost alternative to estate and trust planning that offers clients an attorney review of their documents.

Jason is an entrepreneur by trade and a fellow at the Center for Legal Informatics (CodeX) at Stanford University. Prior to FairDocument, Jason tried to use a self-help book to aid in his estate planning. He ran into specific questions that the book simply didnt answer. Aggravated that the answer wasnt there, he found that engaging in a few minutes of meaningful time from an attorney to be extremely helpful. Thus, the model for FairDocument was born.

Alongside colleagues Quanqiu Wang and Justin Yarmark, Brewster originally explored many options, including using artificial intelligence to create contracts. Due to their complexity, other documents such as contracts are still in the works. In the meantime, his team created FairDocument, to provide low-cost attorney services for estate planning.  They combined the do-it-yourself philosophy with the expertise of attorneys to help clients create estate plans.
Another pseudo-application of the pareto principle (see previous post on SnapTerms), FairDocument recognizes that 80% of clients have similar estate planning needs. FairDocument thus uses standardized forms, and then calls in the lawyers to refine the estate planning documents to each clients specific needs.

According to FairDocument, in general, there are three triggers that indicate its time for an estate plan: (1) Children; (2) Net worth greater than $150,000; or (3) Home ownership.  Estate planning can direct assets according to the wishes of the deceased. Without an estate plan, assets may be subject to probate and unfavorable allocations and tax results may occur. Estate planning gives the deceased the power to decide where assets will go and minimizes estate taxes paid.

FairDocument currently provides estate planning services to residents in California, Virginia, Mississippi, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Colorado and Montana are in the works. They hope to expand services to more states soon.