What’s new in advanced document assembly for the trusts and estates practice
Kelley Rating (one asterisk = lowest, 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 *****
“Wealth Transfer Planning,” (WTP), version 5.3.3, is a sophisticated automated drafting system for estate planning documents, created by Jonathan G. Blattmachr and Michael L. Graham. It’s a part of InterActive LegalSuite, which is a collection of productivity solutions published by InterActive Legal, an ILS Management program. Since the review of this product in a March 2009 Tech Review (Save Time, Money With Automated Drafting), the WTP has been further enhanced with expanded drafting options, as well as new document capabilities.
ILS Management also offers “Elder Law Planning” (an elder law, special needs and Medicaid planning software), and “Essential Estate Planning” (a basic estate planning system for non-taxable or minimally taxable estates) as components of the InterActive LegalSuite. These products come in both standard and professional versions. The professional version includes monthly drafting webinars as well as access to Leimberg Information Services, customization tools and unlimited technical and content support.
The increasing federal estate applicable exclusion amount, peaking at $5 million for 2011 and 2012 after the passage of the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 (2010 Act) has had a significant effect on the estate planning practice. The higher exemption amount means planners are paying more attention to finding sophisticated ways of direct disposition of estate assets among family members – strategies that WTP reflects.
The InterActive LegalSuite website now offers a sample 2010 post-legislation year-end planning letter to send to your clients and a client alert notice on 2010 holiday for generation-skipping transfer tax. Basha Systems, an InterActive LegalSuite strategic partner, offers a “Time Matters Integration Package” that integrates with all InterActive LegalSuite products. Client data entered in TimeMatters can be pulled into the WTP drafting system to eliminate duplicate data entry.
What’s It All About?
WTP produces comprehensive wills, revocable trusts (with the typical range of marital deduction and credit trust variations) and various standalone irrevocable trusts. State-specific language and powers of attorney are included for all states as well as the District of Columbia.
There are a number of new enhancements to the drafting provisions, including:
- Installment Sale Trusts: Special provisions to guard against the gift tax risks of an installment sale to grantor trust transactions are now included under the irrevocable trust heading. The installment sale trust feature includes variations for an unmarried grantor, married grantor selling property and a grantor spouse selling property.
- The program now provides options for distribution of income and principal, with different standards in different trusts and within the same trust. It also includes custom-drafted standards.
- A user now has the option to treat children and grandchildren differently within the trust (such as outright distributions for children and trust distributions for grandchildren, or vice versa).
- A generation jumping option (a trust exclusively for grandchildren with a chance to add parents as beneficiaries after five years) is included for irrevocable trusts to minimize future generations of transfer taxation by taking advantage of the “move-down” rule.
- The stand-alone supplemental needs trust addresses the establishment of an irrevocable trust for a disabled person that constitutes a completed gift.
- The option of choosing an accumulation trust for receiving retirement benefits has been added to the testamentary documents section.
- Domestic asset protection trust capabilities have been added, consisting of an irrevocable trust designed to take advantage of state laws allowing a self-settled trust to be protected from the claims of creditors. Alaska community property trusts are also included and provide the tax benefits of community property to clients in separate property states, as well as asset protection.
- Options are now available for naming fiduciaries with special functions, such as investment trustees and distributions trustees. New options for trustee appointments and qualifications, such as an age required for qualification or termination, may also now be included in trusts and may be even limited to whom they apply. Special compensation provisions for trustees have also been made available. Expanded provisions are included for removal of a trustee and may apply to all or only selected trustees. You may specify who holds the removal power may be specified and extend this power to other persons' not only to a named trust protector. You may provide for appointment of trustees if a vacancy occurs, a replacement is needed or if none are acting. A time limit to accept appointment as a trustee is included. Exclusion provisions are available.
- Expanded trust protector options are available including the ability to draft custom powers for a trust protector that may be dropped into the protector powers section.
- The executor choices include options as to number, co-relationship and levels of contingency. You can type in the executor information or pick from your list of contacts. Similar options are now available for trustees so you can designate administrative, distribution, investment, charitable, insurance, literary and custom trustees..
- The ability to make cash gifts in trust has been added to testamentary documents so that separate trusts with unique provisions can be created for different beneficiaries.
- A new irrevocable trust form, named the "beneficiary defective trust," has been added and creates a trust resulting in treatment of the beneficiary of the trust as the owner for income tax purposes.
- The 2010 Act changes include an increased applicable exclusion for 2011 and 2012 and the advent of portability of the applicable exclusion for 2011 and 2012, but what about drafting for the 2010 Act changes? The same needs exist for 2011 and 2012 as under the prior law, only with larger credit trust amounts. Consequently, you don't need changes to accommodate drafting for the 2010 Act. WTP, however, provides multiple drafting options should you find a need for them. For example, a traditional credit-shelter trust approach, a plan designed to take advantage of the new portability of the federal estate tax exemption, planning for a future repeal of the federal estate tax or a plan that allows post-death planning in a number of different ways to deal with changes in the law regarding portability or future repeal. For a discussion of the many reasons for a continuing need of credit trusts after the enactment of portability see the Jan. 3, 2011 article by Deborah L. Jacobs, Planning for a Disappearing Estate Tax Break in Forbes.
- Materials are now available for Docubank, a service that provides immediate access to health care directives and emergency medical information, including a transmittal letter, client enrollment form and firm enrollment form. Significant discounts on DocuBank products are available to InterActive LegalSuite subscribers.
- New document footer preferences, which are available for Microsoft Word users only, include options for inserting a space on each page for the client to initial and add the firm's client and matter number.
How Does It Work?
The InterActive LegalSuite interface initially manages documents and the HotDocs assembly system to answer files in a custom "tree," displaying a list of all clients. You can click a button to add a client and then click again to add a matter for that client. The system manages each party to a marriage or domestic partnership as a separate matter so that each can have his own answers. You can copy a matter to create a starter set of data for the spouse or partner, so creating mirror-image documents is streamlined.
Clicking the add a document button brings up a tree containing wills, trusts, smart strategic planning memoranda, agreements, powers of attorney and letters, from which you may select a specific document to draft. A HotDocs interview will begin running, requesting that you answer document-related questions. That document is then automatically named and associated with its related client and matter in the system's database. This feature of WTP eliminates the need to name and locate your documents or answer files.
The WTP software package includes resources such as checklists and memoranda addressing various estate planning functions and devices.
The SmartContent interface displays, on the left side of the screen, a list of clients (in a tiered format, together with matters and documents). The right side of the screen shows actions associated with each client, matter or document. A question list helps WTP to develop planning recommendations for you.
The methodology of the program is discussed in a March 2009 Tech Review, Save Time, Money With Automated Drafting .
Help and Support
You may obtain support for the program by email, telephone and live online chat service. You may also choose to allow technical support to remote into your system.
Customers who have purchased the essential or standard versions get technical support at no charge for the first 30 days. Thereafter, fee-based support is available at $200 per hour (calculated in 15-minute increments), with a minimum $100 charge per support incident. Customers who purchase the professional version receive unlimited support for 12 months. Professional users can also attend monthly drafting webinars at no cost. These webinars ($50 for standard version users) cover detailed drafting issues beyond those covered in the general training classes.
Two discussion forums, called technical knowledgebase and a legal knowledgebase are available to registered subscribers.
WTP, and the InterActive LegalSuite are licensed as 12 month subscriptions and are available at: http://www.interactivelegal.com/.
A matrix with the complete pricing system (based on the product and number of users) for all the Interactive LegalSuite products at http://www.ilsdocs.com/products/pricing.php
There are a number of will and trust drafting systems in this genre:
Drafting Wills and Trust Agreements on GhostFill, a Thomson Reuters program by Michael L.M. Jordan, is a software program for the assembly of wills, revocable trusts and other documents.
WealthDocs, a Wealth Counsel program, is a software solution for the automated assembly of estate planning documents that includes a series of Practice Systems that automate drafting. This product was reviewed in a November 2009 Tech Review, WealthDocx 7.
Lawgic, a Lawgic Publishing Company program, is a state-specific program, available for N.Y., Md., Calif., Fla. and Ga.. The program includes, wills, disability planning documents and a number of trusts.
Trust Plus, a Thomson Reuters program, is a system that produces wills, revocable trusts and irrevocable trusts. It also includes trust funding documents and asset transfer letters.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.