The 41st Annual Heckerling Institute on Estate Planning (held in Orlando, Fla. on Jan. 8-12) offered exceptional expert presenters and written materials for the trusts-and-estates practice. The event featured numerous exhibitors displaying the latest products and services in an informative and educational manner.

In the interest of full disclosure, my view of the institute was primarily from the Thomson booth (I'm the designer of the Intuitive Estate Planner program published by Thomson/West). The Thomson theme was “It’s a jungle out there,” depicting the dark and complex side of trusts-and-estates world. There are, however many software products and web-based facilities that offer trusts-and-estates practitioner tools with which to hack through the underbrush and provide an occasional clearing where enlightenment shines through.

Comprehensive Programs

The major comprehensive estate-planning programs continue to add features and provide more integration for commonly used estate-planning calculations.

BNA Estate Tax Planner, version 2006.1, now has a substantially revised interface designed to simplify data entry, facilitate navigation and make “what-ifs” easier to perform. It includes an enhanced series of graphical presentations. It updates the state estate tax calculations for individual decoupled states. The program also updates and incorporates on a regular basis federal and state tax changes.

Intuitive Estate Planner (designed by the author) has enhanced and updated its computation of the state estate tax for decoupled states (including Ohio and Tennessee) and the Pennsylvania Inheritance tax, including allocation of taxes among the state of residence and two nonresident states. It gives the user a choice between charging the state estate tax to the credit trust or to the marital deduction. The program also features enhanced integration of pension planning with its estate tax and financial reports.

CCH has not yet released an upgrade of Viewplan, but indicates that its new version 4.8 is under construction and will soon be published.

State Estate Tax Calculations

The increase in the federal estate tax applicable exclusion highlights the impact of state estate taxes in both the client’s state of residence and other states in which client property has a taxable situs.

Brentmark Software, Inc. announced that it is adding state-specific inheritance and estate tax calculations to its Estate Planning QuickView, to be followed by Estate Planning Tools and other programs in 2007.

Steve Leimberg and Vince Lackner formally introduced DecoupleCruncher, a standalone state estate tax calculator based on the FileMaker platform that will be marketed by Leimberg Associates, and the Lackner Group. This calculator will address individual state estate calculations for decoupled states, including a detailed display of the background calculations. It performs the allocation of state estate taxes among multiple states, calculates the optimized marital deduction and does both the basic circular state estate tax calculation when the state tax is charged to the marital deduction, and the additional circular calculation when the will calls for charges both federal estate tax and state tax to the marital deduction. It also computes the estate tax advantage of lifetime gifts.

Financial Planning Programs

Here is a sampling of the financial planning programs exhibited at Heckerling:

Brentmark Software, Inc. introduced its revised and updated Retirement Income Navigator. This program is designed to manage money during retirement when funds are being drawn out. It helps assess an appropriate balance between interest bearing securities and equities. The publisher offers a number of reports and tutorials for your review.

Several persons mentioned to me that they use eMoney Advisor or Money Guide Pro. These programs did not have exhibitors, but might be worth looking into. They are designed for use by financial managers and provide web-based portfolio management with reports for direct client viewing and interaction.

Document Assembly Programs

Document assembly programs continue to improve in the scope of document forms and the enhancement of the drafting choice and assembly process.

Lawgic has indicated that it will be releasing new wills and trusts products for New Jersey and Tennessee. The publisher’s Florida probate system is scheduled for launch in 2007.

Thomson/West's Drafting Wills and Trust Agreements on GhostFill, version 4.0, offers increased content and enhanced functionality. Highlights include a new qualified personal residence trust, redevelopment of the charitable remainder trust documents, and addition of user-defined documents functionality, allowing users to import their own documents into the system. Also included are “Guidelines for Executors, Trustees and Agents Acting Under a Power of Attorney,” enhancements to the document manager functionality, allowing users to track documents created in the system and system utilities enhancements, including system backup functionality and client archiving. Changes to the interface offer better descriptions of share/trust selections and increased formatting flexibility in document output.

WealthCounsel has implemented the transition of conduit trusts to accumulation trusts in its "Retirement Trust" library. The interview for joint revocable trust plans now includes ancillary documents for both spouses. It has expanded its "Irrevocable Trust" options to include irrevocable life insurance trusts designed to hold a second-to-die life insurance policy and implemented business succession documents, including a buy-sell agreement and a deferred compensation agreement. New, also, are built-in plan designs throughout the system, allowing for more efficient data entry and document generation.

Wealth Transfer Planning (WTP) published by InterActive Legal Systems continues to add imaginative and cutting-edge drafting by Jonathan Blattmachr and Mike Graham. New features include the (service marked) technique called the “SuperCharged Credit Shelter Trust;” parallel grantor retained annuity trusts; an irrevocable life insurance trust form, including “Cascading Crummey Powers;” material on “Making Spousal Estate Tax Exemptions Transferable;” special language for carryover basis drafting and an extension to the “Joint Revocable Trust,” allowing planning for unmarried domestic partners through a “Domestic Partner Trust.” WTP now supports same-sex and opposite-sex unmarried couples, with special provisions for California community property that has “registered domestic partner” status. It also has an updated lifetime qualified terminable interest property template.

Tax Return Preparation Programs

Gift and estate tax return preparation programs continue to broaden the scope of state death tax return offerings and add facilities for the import of financial data.

With respect to gift/estate tax return preparation programs, FASTER Systems, LLC has added New York and Connecticut estate tax modules, including applications for an extension to file and pay state-level estate tax. The publisher asserts that their FASTER ASP is the only fiduciary accounting and estate/gift tax software available in a secure, online, hosted environment.

Thomson’s Fasttax program now offers state death tax formats for Arizona, California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Gillett Estate Management Suite (GEMS) now gives you the ability to interface with Quicken so as to import assets and transactions from financial institutions and brokerage accounts directly into the GEMAcct fiduciary accounting module. As a result, both the accounting and federal estate tax return modules can be populated with this data. The GEM706 module now has state modules for Illinois, Indiana, New Jersey, New York, Ohio and Wisconsin. The publisher anticipates adding at least five more state modules to the GEMS program this year. For the Illinois and Wisconsin state modules, GEM706 performs the double circular interrelated calculation involving those state death taxes.

Other Programs

These programs have added facilities to help you with file organization and data handling:

Lucion Technologies offersFile Professional 4.0 “paperless office” software, which conducts indexing functions and document management and scanning to assist in converting, organizing and finding files. It allows for automated, scheduled, document scanning and indexing including conversion of image files, such as pictures (in TIF, JPG and other formats). It also creates image-only PDF files using a scanner and searchable PDFs.

EstateWorks has introduced TruePlan, a web-based facility for managing estate-planning cases and contacts, tracking documents during the review process, automating Crummey notifications, searching and reporting on client plans and marketing to clients. It merges data into document templates without requiring separate software for that purpose. The publisher is also expanding its database applications to provide customized integration with the HotDocs document assembly system by LexisNexis.

Bottom Line

The evolution of trusts-and-estates practice software and web-based facilities continues with significant enhancements to many products. The products reflect a positive trend based on streamlined interfaces and better tools with features for addressing your clients’ needs.

Trusts & Estates magazine is pleased to present the monthly Technology Review by Donald H. Kelley—a respected connoisseur of software and Internet resources wealth management advisors use to further their practices.

Kelley is a lawyer living in Highlands Ranch, Colo. and is of counsel to the law firm of Kelley, Scritsmier & Byrne, P.C. of North Platte, Neb. He is the co-author of Intuitive Estate Planner Software (Thomson - West 2004). He has served on the governing boards of the American Bar Association Real Property, Probate and Trust Section and the American College of Tax Counsel. He is a past regent and past chair of the Committee on Technology in the Practice of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.

Trusts & Estates has asked Kelley to provide his unvarnished opinions on the tech resources available in the practice today. His columns are edited for readability only. Send feedback and suggestions for articles directly to him at dhkelley@qwest.net.

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