Kelley Rating (one asterisk = lowest, to five asterisks = highest):

  • Ease of navigation, design of interface and learning curve *****
  • Instructional documentation and help system ****
  • Carries out the goal of the product as advertised *****
  • Overall usefulness *****

Planning Perspectives is a website designed for use by charitable organizations to facilitate collaboration among the donor, the donor’s advisors and others to evaluate the donor’s gift-making plans and actual gift making. The website has the capability to assist in developing and completing the gift process. It applies a new planned giving calculation technology developed for the Sharpe Group by PhilanthroTec and its affiliated company Going Virtual, LLC. The background, purpose and technology of this project are discussed at PhilanthroTec’s Calculation Made Simple, Not Just Simple Calculations.

Planning Perspectives doesn’t just present the law related to charitable gifts and the techniques of charitable giving, which it does by linking to content from the Cornell University Law School's Legal Information Institute and selected content on the Planned Giving Design Center. It also links to external information for more detailed research and incorporates calculating facilities in its text. Rather than asking the user to move between text creation and programs that perform planned giving calculations, Planning Perspectives incorporates calculations and diagram creation facilities as part of its text material.

Illustrations the donor creates and related text material may be privately shared immediately with all persons involved in the planning process. The donor may also share with the host organization, only, on a confidential basis.

The internal calculations built into Planning Perspectives select the most advantageous rates available for each planning technique. The publisher’s staff enters monthly discount rates before the beginning of the next month so that the illustrations automatically have the most up-to-date rates. The publisher’s staff reinterprets and updates all content as the tax laws change.

What’s It All About?

To access the research tools and initiate the creation of a plan illustration, the donor or other member of the donor’s team would launch the Planning Perspectives area of the proposed charity’s website, which has been tailored for that charity. A table of contents appears on the left side of the screen listing the gift approaches unique to that charity and the information about “Planning Your Gifts” that’s furnished by Planning Perspectives.

Using the charitable trusts area of “Planning Your Gifts” from the University of Alabama's Planning Perspectives website as an example: The first screen that appears is a layperson’s explanation of the nature and operation of charitable remainder trusts that includes visual diagrams illustrating calculations of various charitable trusts. On the right side of the screen appears a box with links to additional content that displays text descriptions of specific types of charitable trusts and facilities for creating calculation examples. In either the visual or text version, which the donor may toggle between, the donor may enter the names, ages and asset values to be contributed to the trust and payout rates through a pop-up prompt that appears when the donor clicks on the underlined variable. The example then instantly calculates the income tax deduction for the charitable transfer. The calculation uses the current date as the assumed inception date of the trust and uses the optimum Internal Revenue Code Section 7520 rate related to that date. Information typed into the graphic version of an example automatically transfers to the text version and vice versa.

At the bottom of the charitable trusts screen and in the table of contents on the right is a link to advisor content about charitable remainder trusts. Information on that link discusses the federal rules related to the creation and administration of charitable trusts. This discussion includes links to related statutes, regulations, rulings and revenue procedures as well as links to document examples. It also links to technical reports, case studies and articles provided by the Planned Giving Design Center.

At the bottom of any of these screens the donor may reset to erase the data he entered, print the screen he was viewing, sign in to save his illustration as a PDF, or share the URL of the page he was viewing through a dedicated form or personal email. The sharing form allows the person the donor is sharing with to change it or share data in confidence with a representative of the sponsoring charity. As an option, the planner can uncheck a box that prevents the donor from changing the assumptions you have used.

This sharing facility provides a unique way for a professional to communicate planned giving techniques with clients.

The Planning Perspectives website comes in two versions, “branded,” which can be created in a matter of days and “mirrored,” like that of the University of Alabama example above, which emulates the charity’s site exactly. An example of the publisher’s alternative branded site design with somewhat different indexing is the Jane Goodall Institute website that includes information for donors’ advisors and a page of calculators.

Help and Support?

For the user of the charity’s website, each example has instructions that may be turned on or off. At the bottom of each screen is a link on how to use the Planning Perspectives site. The Planning Perspectives website includes a page of instructions on how to create a personalized illustration that supplies additional instruction and a page that describes the process to share content and illustrations.

Product Availability

Planning Perspectives is available to charitable organizations at SharpNET Web Services.
For questions, pricing, more information or to arrange an online demonstration, contact The Sharpe Group at 901-680-5300 or 800-238-3253.

Bottom Line

Planning Perspectives enables charitable organizations to provide educational tools and gift planning services to their prospective donors and their advisors. It not only allows donors to learn planning techniques and experiment with calculations, but also provides quickly accessible in-depth technical materials to professionals practicing in the charitable giving field.

Websites with similar objectives:
· Gift Law Pro from Crescendo is a complete online charitable giving and tax information service and gift planning electronic library furnished with the Crescendo Pro, Estate and Lite software.
· Leave a Legacy Kansas City provides a compact compendium and glossary of technical information for planned giving and a comprehensive discussion of the implementation of various planned giving techniques.
· The BYU Marriott School provides client explanations and excellent diagrams of charitable lead trusts, charitable remainder annuity trusts and charitable lead annuity trusts.
· A layperson’s discussion of resources for choosing and forming charitable trusts including planning, funding and motivation is available from the Charitable Trust.

Trusts & Estates magazine is pleased to present the monthly Technology Review by Donald H. Kelley—a respected connoisseur of the 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 the 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@qwestoffice.net.