Married couple’s startup helps others with end-of-life plans

When Michelle Braddock’s father died, she became embroiled in a process that would take her the better part of a year.

Michelle and her husband, Jon, went through the time-consuming process of assembling all of her father’s documents — making them locate the will, safety deposit boxes, receipts, prescriptions and much more.

“It was a daunting task,” Jon said.

So the two decided to start the Madison startup My Life and Wishes, an online service that compiles all of those documents, both physical and digital. The service, which went live in May, already has more than 3,000 users who hope to avoid the same frustration and confusion.

The company also hopes it can make people open up to their families about their financial information, as more than half of the population doesn’t do so, Jon said.

“I thought, this is crazy,” Jon said. “We will all die, and we don’t know when. People are so afraid to talk about dying, that they don’t talk about it with their family. They leave a mess.”

Michelle and Jon, who are both 54, bring more than 30 years of experience each in the financial services industry. And they’re planning to seek outside investors in September, now that they’ve sold their financial advice company and Jon is giving up his financial securities license.

The company currently has three employees, but it’s looking to hire four more in development and digital communications in the coming months. They outsource their website and platform design but hope to bring their marketing efforts in-house with this next round of hires.

If all goes according to plan, the two say, they will have 10,000 users by the middle of next summer.

The eventual vision for the company, however, is much more grand. “The long-range goal is to help one million families,” Jon said. “We want to help them avoid going through the same pain we went through.”

The company says it does have competitors, though they focus more on working with the financial planners people hire. Instead, Jon said, My Life and Wishes is catering to “the 99 percenters.”

“We deal with aging parents, baby boomers,” Michelle said. “People use the platform to get organized. Everything is digital nowadays, so it applies to anyone.”

And though their current customers are mostly older, the two hope to expand to parents who are just starting their families — and to their kids.

“We have built this for everyone,” Michelle said.

— By Alex Moe,