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The immortal Benjamin Franklin told us that nothing is certain but death and taxes. We have yet to eliminate physical death, but Congress recently eliminated what it called the tax upon death, at least for one year. This has made life easier for estate planners who are willing to advise their clients to plan to expire in 2009. But the Economic Growth & Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA) has made life more difficult, or at least more interesting, for lawyers with clients who have other schedules in mind. This week we’ll look at estate planning (as opposed to will and trust drafting) software, beginning with the recently revised ViewPlan, a program from the tax experts at CCH. VIEWPLAN OVERVIEW CCH’s ViewPlan began life as Vista, a program produced by ViewPlan. ViewPlan was purchased by CCH; the purchaser took over the program, renamed it after its former developer and combined it with a Generation Skipping Trust calculator known as Progeny. (We’re told that Progeny, as well as an associated program, Legacy, were pre-Windows version that ran under MS-DOS.) Version 3.01, first version created under CCH ownership, enables Vista subscribers to use their old client data and incorporates EGTRRA. INSTALLATION/ DOCUMENTATION/ SUPPORT ViewPlan installed, automatically, from a CD-ROM to about 13 megabytes of hard disk space. We received a quick start laminated card, but no printed manual, nor was there an electronic manual on the CD. There was, of course, a detailed help system connected with the program, and CCH maintains free and toll free telephone support, weekdays from 9:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m., Eastern time. PLANNING WITH VIEWPLAN ViewPlan is not for the estate planning novice who probably shouldn’t be planning complex estates, anyhow. If you aren’t intimately familiar with terms like QTIP, FLPs, 6166 calculations, GSTs, Gift Splitting and QFOBI, ViewPlan may not be all that useful, although if all your clients need are simple optimal marital exclusion/bypass trust plans, ViewPlan will show client savings with style. Help system will provide you with references to the CCH databases (printed and online) that define and deal with such matters, but you must purchase access to the online databases if you wish to take advantage of the hyperlinks. ViewPlan won’t help you with the drafting after it helps you to decide the estate planning scenario most suitable for your client. (One caveat: ViewPlan does basic planning for charitable distributions as a part of the estate, but if you are dealing with Lead Annuity Trusts, or NIMCRUTs and so forth, you may wish to look at the publisher’s forthcoming Beneview program.) The estate planner begins by entering information about the client. Click on the “Add” button on the client list box, and ViewPlan pops up a box asking for last, first and middle name of the client, date of birth, state of residence and whether the client is married. The program adds a set of boxes for spouse information only if the “married” check box is checked. (ViewPlan references a unigender mortality table to make an initial determination of relative dates of death of the spouses, but you can override this order if appropriate.) Next, click on the “Estate Details” button, and begin entering information about the client preferences for assumed tax and growth rates, headings to be used in reports and charts — you prefer using “Credit Trust” instead of the default “Bypass Trust,” you got it — years for election of split gifts and, if you’ll have 6166 property, assumed interest rates for calculations. Next, enter information about assets and liabilities, expenses, losses, probate and so forth. Each entry can be quite detailed. An asset, for example, can be marked as a specific asset type — real estate, cash, securities, life insurance and so forth — whether it is eligible for Section 6166 or 303 treatment, value and tax basis, type of ownership — sole, joint and so forth — location, and a wealth of other information. Finally, select the general approach to be used in the estate plan. ViewPlan automatically calculates three approaches — no marital deduction, everything to the spouse and optimum marital deduction for a married person — but the estate planner can do things like specify growth rates, choose to show or not show A-B Trusts in reports, reverse expected dates of death between spouses, include or exclude Qualified Family Owned Business Interest calculations, and make changes with respect to specific data at any time. When all of the required information has been entered, ViewPlan runs the requested calculations, and generates an absolutely wonderful flow chart that shows where the estate goes, how much to the government and how much to the intended recipients. Below the chart is a line by line summary. If that chart is too detailed to make the point, you can select a three dimensional histogram that compares tax on the client’s estate, tax on the spouse’s estate and total amount to beneficiaries, under three selected approaches. A cashflow report discloses whether the estate will generate enough immediate cash to pay required disbursements or whether it is likely that assets must be liquidated. One or some combination of charts should satisfy the client, but ViewPlan also reports detailed numbers and graphs on a variety of other aspects of the results of the indicated estate plan at various periods. Many of these additional reports, we suspect, are more for the estate planner than the client. The estate planner is sure to like the Calculation Audit Trail reports that can be generated with respect to every report that we reviewed. The Audit Trail reports put into English and a few arithmetic symbols what purport to be every calculation required to create the report being audited. This would be useful, for example, where the base report results differs from what the estate planner expected. We can’t say that this CCH program is always correct in its tax analysis or its calculations, although we don’t think anyone will go far wrong relying on CCH, but if something is amiss, the Audit Trail should enable you to find it. CONSIDERATIONS ViewPlan comes on an annual subscription basis, at about $1,000 for a single user, $1,100 for two users and decreasing increases with each additional user. Renewal price is currently about half of the initial year. Former users of Vista or Progeny should have received notice of the new program, and been offered a first year ViewPlan subscription at a substantial discount. This offer has expired, but if you never got a notice, we suggest you call the company and make your case. The subscription includes a printed monthly estate planning newsletter, free telephone customer support and any update issued during the year. The cost would seem inconsequential to a busy estate planner. That aside, we have only one real complaint about the program. The charts and graphs are great, but they look much better on the screen on than on printed with a black-only laser; even a color printer may not serve you as well as the computer screen. CCH claims that the program can export to Microsoft Word, but we couldn’t find anything other than an XML export routine. Customer support told us we could “Copy” any report to the Windows Clipboard, and paste the results into Word, or any other program that will accept a pasted graphic. This process works, but we’d prefer a form that keeps text, at least, as text. It shouldn’t be difficult to develop an alternative save/print routine that converts the program’s reports to HTML, where they could be viewed using any Web browser, or to Power Point format, where they could be viewed as a PowerPoint presentation. We tried the PDF Factory printer driver program, which enabled us to “print” the documents to PDF (Portable Document Format) files. We then turned to Adobe Acrobat, itself, to combine our own custom analysis and the CCH graphs and reports into a virtual booklet that could be shown to the client in the office, then sent with the client for a review on his own computer. ViewPlan is a versatile calculation and presentation program for the estate planning expert. If you’re in that category, you owe it to your practice to take a look. SUMMARY CCH’s new ViewPlan 3.01 won’t tell you how to draft your documents, but it will certainly help you to determine which estate planning alternatives may result in the lowest Federal Estate Tax, and show the results to your clients. DETAILS ViewPlan 3.01. Price: First year single license, $925.00; first year two-user license, $1,110.00. Multiuser discounts apply. Requires IBM PC or compatible running Microsoft Windows 95 or later, 14 megabytes hard disk space. CCH INCORPORATED, 2700 Lake Cook Road, Riverwoods, IL 60015. Phone (800) 835-5224 or (847) 267-7000. Web: www.cch.com.

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