Renee Fry WIN Lab ’19 of Gentreo
Inspired by her father's diagnosis with Alzheimer's disease, Renee Fry set out on a quest to create an easier way for people to create and share health and estate plans. Read to learn more about Gentreo's unique position in the market and why you should think about estate planning no matter your age.
What first sparked the idea to create an easier way for families to create and share health and estate plans?
RF: Our father has Alzheimer’s disease. It is just as bad as all that you have heard about it. Our mother, at 70, struggled to learn whole new skillsets to try to plan legally and financially for herself and my father. She is not alone though. In the US today, there are over 40 million Americans who are over sixty-five and these families have over 60 million children who are helping care for them as they age. Our research showed that many families are just like our own, they know they need to do planning – like estate planning and figuring out how to pay for care, but often don’t know where to start or find getting help is too expensive. That is why we created Gentreo.
What’s the most rewarding story you’ve heard from a client?
RF: We have heard from several people who were so happy with the documents and the website, that they contacted us about giving subscriptions to friends and family. One woman in Iowa stood out because she is caring for her aging parents and was particularly stressed about ensuring that their financial future. She lives in IA and her parents are in FL. With Gentreo, it was easy to complete all the documents her parents needed and now she always has access to them with just a few clicks!
Many people put off writing their will because it’s an uncomfortable topic. How do you make this an approachable conversation to have?
RF: Thinking and talking about your future in this way may not be everyone’s favorite topic but we emphasize that the conversation is really about choices and ensuring that what your wishes are followed whether it’s about your house, money, pets, or favorite possessions. You will want to make sure that you make the decisions and not a court. One suggestion to make this conversation more comfortable is to begin talking about politics, then any other topic may be welcome. Jokes aside, doing estate planning when you are healthy is much easier than waiting for emergencies to happen as they will, and not being prepared costs families thousands of dollars, lost time and lost choices.
Why should people start thinking about planned giving at younger ages?
RF: Estate planning is for everyone over eighteen years of age as it protects health care decisions, assets and choices. We do a lot with life inflection points. For instance, if you are getting married you might want to name your spouse as your health care agent instead of your parents. Or, if you just had a baby, you want to make sure to add your child to your will and name guardians too. In other cases, it is particularly important for those needing care so they decide who can make critical health care and financial decisions for them. COVID has taught us that this can be any age.
Unfortunately, estate planning today is completed by only about one-third of Americans, and the number of protected Americans is dropping significantly—reflecting a 25% decrease in just three years. Estate planning attorneys exist to prepare documents, such as a will or health care proxy, yet these services cost thousands of dollars and are hard to access, especially during the Covid-19 pandemic. Even if documents are created, these are often lost or misplaced. This lack of planning leaves families, especially caregivers, with unexpected expenses, large losses of time and great angst.
Even though decision-makers and caregivers, especially those caring for loved ones with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and AD-related dementia (ADRD) (also known as People with Dementia), are often motivated to help family members, they usually have no resources to turn to and face major barriers in completing estate planning and using on-going support tools to help make their lives easier and more affordable
Is there an unconventional question you ask when interviewing potential employees? Or what quality do you look for most when hiring somebody?
RF: Do you have Wi-Fi and a dining room table? How do you do working remotely? We've grown quite a bit and have employees from around the United States. Making sure everyone has a good place to work is a critical component of making sure that person is setting themselves up to be successful. We have a great office at Qubic in Quincy, MA for those who are local, but many of us—due to COVID concerns—work from home.
What is one small thing that can make any day better for you?
RF: Finding a bargain. Even though I don’t own a cat, I once bought cat food for an animal shelter because the price was too good to not take advantage of a great deal. The shelter was very happy! We have sent lots of taco seasoning to our troops abroad as well (in addition to other gifts).
Who was your biggest supporter when you were creating Gentreo?
RF: I want to give the Babson WIN program a huge shoutout. Throughout the 6-month WIN program we learned how to raise capital as female founders, develop strategic partnerships, and that the bottom line matters. As finalists in the Babson College Women Innovating Now Contest of 2019, sponsored by the WIN Lab, we attracted the attention of our first seed investor and have taken off from there.
Did you have a New Year’s resolution for 2021?
RF: My resolution is to make others make getting their estate planning done their resolution! Plus, I am walking at least five times a week with our dog Butter. Butter loves having us home lots more and is good at reminding me it is time for our walk.
And now a "This or That" speed round:
- Music or podcasts? 1980’s Music
- Paper book or eBook? E-book, but I typically don't read books, mostly articles and news.
- Relaxing or productive weekend? Productive—like fixing my front stairs.
- Road trip or flying? Road Trip! I've been to 44 states in the U.S. so just a few more to check off in the south and west.
- Sunrise or sunset? Sunset