Will Artificial Intelligence Really Make an Impact in Estate Planning Technology?

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All the talk around Artificial Intelligence, ChatGPT and other new platforms provides for an interesting discussion.  Can artificial intelligence actually make an impact on estate planning software and the industry of estate planning technology? The better question is has it already?

As the computer program (we are going to call it a machine) learns the processes, it programs them on its own so when it comes across that process again, it has a method to respond.  The more and more it comes across a process and the more the response is similar, the more likely it is to provide that response each time.  It will vary the response with parameters that are provided and learn each time the parameters and the appropriate responses.  The best example is auto populated text from our cell phones.  It is also the easiest way to understand.

To understand what impact, it can have on estate planning technology and estate planning software, you really have to understand what artificial intelligence really is.  Once you understand how it works, then you can really assess the application effect on estate planning software. 

If you haven’t heard of Artificial Intelligence (AI), here is how it is defined by IBM.  IBM is the creator of Watson, which is really the first effort to push the concept of machine learning and artificial intelligence.  IBM defines AI as “The science and engineering of making intelligent machines, especially intelligent computer programs. It is related to the similar task of using computers to understand human intelligence."

While that explains it, artificial intelligence in simple words is the simulation of human intelligence processes by machines, especially computer systems. It is the process of learning human processes and recreating them through computer processes.  In short, a program is written to learn the processes, questions, and responses that humans typically perform and then mirror those processes as they are requested.

Estate planning is the process of planning for one’s passing and the transfer of items, information, and instructions at death.  The process is supported by human interaction from the gathering of information, the processing of that information, and the planning and creation of instructions for those who are managing affairs of that person at their passing.

How does estate planning technology and estate planning software support the process of estate planning?  There are several solutions that support various aspects of estate planning, but in its basic form, it is supported by intake estate planning software, reporting and document creation, and support such as customer relationship managers, illustrations, and portals.

So how would AI-driven technology support estate planning technology and estate planning software.  To answer this question, one has to look at the human element of estate planning.  Humans provide information to estate planners in the form of assets, beneficiaries and how they want the assets transferred at death.  Would AI really enhance what is already out there in terms of these processes?  Probably not any more than what is available today through data integrations and human responses to questions.

What about estate planning reporting and analysis? Possibly. AI-driven estate planning software can drive results based on human processes and typical responses that occur repeatedly over time. It may also be able to provide various outcomes based on those responses, court proceedings, stories and other factors that would affect those recommendations. 

Document creation, calculations and illustrations are already available to estate planners but could AI help with those processes?  Possibly with document creation, document reading and other instructional forms that are processed.  It could simply learn to create the necessary documentation based on the information provided by humans.  It could also learn to read provisions and provide analysis of the instructions and provisions in a document.  Calculations and illustrations are available today and seamlessly created, so AI wouldn’t offer much assistance with those aspects of estate planning technology. It wouldn’t help much with portals, and there are voice options to text for client notes.  AI won’t help much there.

AI can assist and upgrade a variety of estate planning technologies and estate planning softwares that assist professionals in their practice, but will it make that much of an impact?  Producing recommendations and analysis is where AI will certainly assist in the processes and make them it more efficient and more productive.  It will also help to scale efforts.  Especially those efforts designed at review of provisions and recommendations based off the human responses to onboarding questionnaires.

Now the question is, when will it happen? The industry as a whole is targeted by document production, note taking, intake and a few other ancillary software packages.  Estate planning technologies are adapting, but it is not a space that new entrants are eagerly targeting.  The reason is that it is not a hot topic or one that gets venture capitalists excited about the possibilities.  It is also not something that the younger, more tech savvy generations think about.  For those reasons alone, it will be some time before estate planning technology vendors start creating AI platforms for estate planners.

This may happen quicker to direct to consumer applications - those that directly target the individuals and help them create documents on their own.  It hasn’t really happened yet and there are several technologies that target individuals, but AI is a word synonymous with advancement and the younger generation.  If something is labeled AI, a consumer is driven to its solution.

Will it really affect the profession overall?  That is yet to be answered because the industry hasn’t really experienced the AI revolution and probably won’t for some time.  It probably won’t affect older attorneys or financial advisors, but it may affect the younger professionals.  It is important to pay attention and continuously differentiate between what a human provides and what technology does not.  The one thing that a computer does not provide is empathy, which goes a long way when someone is dealing with the passing of a loved one.

With current available estate planning software and technology, most are based on algorithms which are not the same as artificial intelligence.  Algorithms are “what ifs” and if you enter one parameter it causes a response.  This has been the standard for some time, and it looks like it will continue.  While it isn’t perfect, it certainly makes human processes faster and more efficient. When used the right way, one can certainly scale a practice using algorithms and estate planning software.

One place that needs to adapt estate planning software and estate planning technology is the probate courts.  They have yet to embrace the use of technology, which hinders the settlement processes.  AI is certainly a technology that can streamline probate and the settling of an estate.

When you pick up the discussion about estate planning technology and estate planning software, we are far off from effective technology to make an impact in the overall process.  While it may be coming down the road or targeting direct to consumer applications, AI’s overall effect on estate planning technology and estate planning software is limited.  This is not because of AI as a whole, but more because the process of estate planning in general is limited to a few processes and is not complex.  One might debate the impact it will have as future technology develops, but it will be hard to debate the impact a human has when it comes to the empathy that is needed when a loved one passes.  AI and technology will never replace that.

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