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The interwebs have been around forever, but many lawyers and law firms are still fearful or resistant to cloud-based technology.
Estate Map, a cloud-based tool for estate planning attorneys and consumers, provides an easy way to store and share information about one’s estate plan and related information.
Full disclosure: Sam, who pays me to write for Lawyerist, also works for Estate Map through the end of this month.
What I like about Estate Map
Estate Map is essentially digital hub for estate planning attorneys and their clients—information about clients estate plans, bank accounts, valuables, health care directives, etc. You can also leave notes regarding location of valuables, how to get a creaky door to shut, etc. From what I can tell, it’s intended to be a giant repository for anything and everything a loved one would need.
When you sign up, you get two welcome e-mails. One of them walks you through how to get started as an attorney and the other one walks you through what a client sees on their end. Overall, I found the walkthroughs to be quick and generally helpful.
After signing up, I was immediately impressed at the security protocols. You login with your e-mail address. You are then asked one of three security questions. Then you have to input your password, and confirm the displayed image matches your previously selected image. I wouldn’t consider it watertight security, but given the amount of personal financial information you are encouraged to share, it’s nice to see some extra precautions.
The interface is simple, clean, and relatively easy to navigate to what/where you want. Some of the graphics and animations are a little janky, but I’m assuming that’s something that will get cleaned up over time. For a client, however, I believe the simple and generally self-explanatory interface would be very appealing.
There are two features that should be particularly appealing to attorneys/law firms. One, you can input a variety of information (including your firm’s logo) so that your firm is branded on your client’s Estate Map interface. In other words, it should appear the Estate Map is a program associated with your firm, rather than the opposite.
Estate Map also provides a one-click backup/download option of client data. The client’s information (broken down into every category) is then downloaded into a relatively clean PDF. It’s not just a data dump, but a presentable document that has all of the information they provided.
The interface should appeal to clients, because it is relatively simple and nearly entirely self-explanatory. When a client first signs up there is a brief questionnaire asking for all of the information needed to create their estate plan.
When you use Estate Map, it’s apparent that the company spent a lot of time making a consumer-friendly interface. Frankly, without a friendly interface, I think this concept is a non-starter. It literally walks you through every component that requires your input, from bank accounts, to ex-spouses, etc.
Again, it’s difficult for me to fully evaluate this, because I do not practice estate planning. But it would appear that the designers have thought of everything (or darn close).
It’s my understanding that Estate Map is going to make a number of changes in the near future. The major change is that there will be three options: a free consumer option, a premium consumer option, and an attorney plug in feature.
Because of those changes, I’m refraining from a lengthy discussion of the current pricing plan. Suffice to say, I don’t think the current option is particularly good, which is why I’m assuming it is being changed.
What I don’t like about Estate Map
Overall, the design and interface is simple and easy to understand. However, as noted above, some of the icons look janky and the animations could use some polish. In addition, some of the features are not easy to find as they should be. For example, I had to search for the download option in the client interface. It’s a great feature, but it would benefit from being easier to find.
I appreciate the simplicity of the opening questionnaire (are you married, kids, etc.), but it also feels somewhat impersonal. I’m not sure how to fix that, although if an attorney is directing clients to Estate Map, perhaps an introductory video (or something similar) would be helpful. It just seems abrupt to get asked all of that information without an explanation.
Another issue that is not clear to me is what happens when a client updates their information—is the attorney notified of the change? Is the attorney only notified when certain changes are made? I’ve been told that only major changes affect an estate plan. That said, I assume that some attorneys (and their clients) would like to be automatically notified when a client updates information.
As noted above, you can download a “hard backup” of the information with click of a button, which is great. However, while the current downloadable PDF is certainly serviceable, it’s not great. It’s better than a straight text data dump, but it could use some polish. In addition, given the importance of using redundant backups, it would be nice to have an additional backup feature.
Who should use Estate Map
As noted, I don’t handle estate planning matters, so my understanding of knowledge of that practice area is fairly limited. That said, it sure looks Estate Map could be a nice component of part of an estate planning practice. One, it appears to help your clients understand and obtain all the relevant information. Two, it allows them to access it and share it (if they desire).
Given that the company is planning on rolling out free/premium/and professional options in the next few months, I think there is certainly an appeal for consumers. It’s a neat product with a fairly intuitive interface. Even if you don’t handle estate planning cases, it’s worth checking out for your own personal use.
Reviewed by Randall Ryder on .
Summary: Estate Map is a neat program that needs a bit more polish, but holds considerable appeal to both estate planning attorneys and consumers in general.
Overall score: 4 (out of 5)