When a person passes away, it’s a time for loved ones to grieve. But in the background, it also brings many tasks to settle an estate, from mail forwarding and closing accounts to locating and determining the eventual destination for assets.
As an estate lawyer at DLA Piper, Leah Del Percio saw this process up close. There can be a lot to it. And with most executors being guided by attorneys but carrying out the tasks themselves, she said it presented another burden for folks who were already going through an emotional time.
She thought, “if we can put a rover on Mars, we can make this process more efficient for people,” she said. “The way it’s done now, it causes such a headache for people grieving.”
The experience also gave her insight into how specific tasks could be automated, and saw how technology that could scale quickly could play a role. After building and speaking with customers, Del Percio left her high-powered career as a lawyer to launch Trustate this week.
The service is defined as tech-enabled, since human interaction is part of the process. Folks who sign up meet remotely with company reps, and Del Percio said it remains a “high-touch” interaction that is customized based on specific situations. She characterizes it as “human-driven on the front end and then powered by tech on the backend.”
That technology platform is focused around automating the repeatable tasks that take place in many estate settlements. This includes closing accounts, managing mail, issuing specific notifications to credit bureaus, locating and consolidating assets and paying expenses. Trustate also communicates with beneficiaries and family members, offers record keeping and coordinates the sale of property.
Along with individuals who are serving as executors, Del Percio said the service could also be offered by banks, smaller law firms and financial advisers as a white-labeled service that uses the platform.
As she set down the entrepreneurial path over the last year, Del Percio has gotten introduced to the Baltimore tech community. She participated in Pioneer Baltimore, ETC’s 10-week program designed for folks who are working and pursuing new business ideas.
Now, she has gotten to the point where Trustate is beyond being able to balance dual roles. We often hear that you’ve gotta go all in on a startup, and taking a new business full-time is a big moment for an entrepreneur. They go from testing an idea to talking to potential customers. As she heard from folks, Del Percio reached an “inflection point” where she felt like she talked to many people who were “screaming for a solution.”
“That’s really where my idea became a mission,” she said.
Even people she didn’t already know were asking where to sign up and where they could pay, she said. It validated the pain point she saw, and she knew that she had a solution with a plan to deliver it. In a way, it was something beyond herself.
“I thought, ‘This is beyond my salary and my career, this is something I have to do.’ It really drove me to be OK with leaving my career. Frankly, I had a great career. I had clients that I loved, I was able to practice law at a high level doing sophisticated work on international cases at one of the top firms of the world working with incredible attorneys,” she said. But even at the pinnacle, “I knew there was something more out there for me and I was going to be solving a problem.”
Like all the things we do nowadays, it is also not lost that Del Percio is not just launching a business, but doing so in a pandemic. Del Percio thought through this as she thought about pushing back her launch, as well, but the purpose behind Trustate guided her as she thought about the people who are grieving loved ones.
“The mission is really there. These are people that need help, and if I can help them as soon as possible, I’d rather be there for them,” she said.
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