Trusts-and-estates practitioners have a continual need to explain how various planning techniques work. This is hard to do with words alone. Visual representations can greatly enhance your ability to communicate with clients and groups. But even while pictures, flowcharts and diagrams are a tremendous help, they are time-consuming to create.
Therefore, as you consider purchasing general estate-planning software, also be sure to check out the programs' graphics and presentation capabilities, including software applications and slideshows that graphically display planning concepts. The article "The Impact of Technology on How Advisors Do Business," Trusts & Estates, June 1999, by Carolyn Yamasaki, a former investment advisor with PGR Advisors in Honolulu, discusses the mechanics of working with graphics in communicating plan content. To find this and other T&E articles, log in to the archive at trustsandestates.com.
Commercial Graphic Presentations
Free-standing graphic communication programs also can be extremely helpful, as well as applications that calculate and graphically display the results of planning techniques. Here are some examples of free-standing presentations:
Leimberg Associates, Inc.'s "Toward a Zero Estate Tax" is a PowerPoint slide presentation on such topics as estate tax basics, annual exclusion gifts, planned giving and sales, Internal Revenue Code Section 303 redemptions, Section 6166 estate tax deferrals and family limited partnerships (FLPs). This broad-based estate-planning presentation features state-of-the-art tools, techniques and strategies and comes with handouts and a speaker's script.
WealthTec Counselor consists of PowerPoint presentations that address estate planning, charitable planning, qualified plans and individual retirement accounts, plus the requirements, tax treatment, advantages and potential drawbacks of each technique. The program may be purchased as a standalone or as part of the publisher's WealthMaster or Foundations modeling programs.
zCalc Presentations is a series of PowerPoint presentations covering a variety of estate-planning topics such as grantor retained annuity trusts (GRATs) and grantor retained unitrusts (GRUTs), as well as charitable planning techniques. The program is available either as a standalone or as part of the zCalc Tool Box. The content was created by Howard Eisenberg of WealthTec. You may obtain a 30-day demo from Thomson Corporation.
Commercial Estate-Planning Programs
There are several commercial software packages that collect data, calculate results and integrate those results into visual presentations for estate planning. As you consider purchasing of one of these products be sure to evaluate the flowcharts, graphics and other client communication materials that it generates. Some of these packages are:
BNA Estate Planner is a full-featured estate-planning program. It generates a summary report that includes graphs, flowcharts and PowerPoint presentations, which can be supplemented with slides from the Presentation Wizard Library. The publisher's website includes an online preview of the program and a 30-day trial.
Creative Edge Estate Planning Power Pak is a web-based retirement/financial/charitable planning application that computes the results of selected planning techniques and presents them in an animated slideshow. The site includes retirement calculators with graphs. A free trial subscription is available.
Intuitive Estate Planner is a software application of which I am the designer. The program conducts comprehensive estate-planning calculations for federal and state estate tax, charitable trusts, GRATs and GRUTs, planned sales (including self-canceling installment notes and intentionally defective irrevocable trusts) and business organization balance sheets with flowcharts. The program, which is published by Thomson/West, includes a built-in slideshow covering basic concepts and advanced estate-planning techniques. An online demo is available, as well as a 30-day trial.
There are programs that compute and report the outcome of charitable giving techniques using graphic slides, diagrams and flowcharts. These programs include:
Crescendo Presents runs on a computer-operated or web-based platform and includes multimedia presentations for one- and two-life unitrusts and annuity trusts, retirement unitrusts, sale and unitrust combinations, unitrusts and life insurance, and current gift annuities. Based on the donor information you enter, this product creates an on-screen gift presentation complete with dynamic charts and audio explanations. The program may be purchased as a standalone or as part of the publisher's Crescendo Pro, Estate and Lite products. Samples of web-based presentations by organizations using Crescendo Presents are available from Crescendo Interactive. A 90-day trial is available.
PhilanthroCalc, based on Excel, performs the charitable deduction calculations for charitable trusts and other techniques. The program runs on Windows operating systems or on a web-based platform. PhilanthroCalc provides detailed reports, incorporating text, graphs and diagrams explaining the derivation of the calculations. A 30-day trial is available.
There also are a number of slideshows and client handouts available -- free of charge from various bar associations and private firms -- address specialized information and planning techniques. Some examples:
Steven B. Gorin of Thompson Coburn LLP in St. Louis, William S. Forsberg of Parsinen Kaplan, et. al. in Minneapolis, Stephen E. Parker of JPMorgan Private Bank in Atlanta, and Rana H. Salti of Winston & Strawn LLP in Chicago presented "Closely Held Businesses, Techniques for Minimizing Estate Taxes" at the 2006 Joint Fall Meeting of the American Bar Association's Real Property, Property and Trust Law (RPPT) and Tax Sections. The presentation, which covers gifts, GRATS, irrevocable grantor trusts, life insurance, private annuities and entity recapitalizations is available from the ABA RPPT Section in PDF format.
Mark M. Christopher, partner at Palmer & Dodge LLP in Boston, presented "Estate Planning for Venture Capitalists and Owners of Venture Capital" before the estate-planning committee at the Boston Bar Association on Dec. 18, 2005. This online slideshow discusses valuation, transfers and dispositions of business interests.
Dave Goeller, a former transition specialist at the University of Nebraska, and Joe M. Hawbaker, a private practitioner in Omaha, prepared "Farm/Ranch Transition & Estate Planning," available from the University of Nebraska, Cooperative Extension Service as a PDF slideshow that emphasizes the need for estate-planning for farm and ranch clients.
From the Sheffield Law Offices comes "Retirement Plans and Trusts," a PDF slideshow outlining retirement trust planning techniques, such as stretch IRAs, conduit trusts and standalone retirement trusts.
Bourland, Wall & Wentzel, P.C. offers free educational downloads in PDF and PowerPoint formats of firm members' presentations, including "Charitable Tax Planning Techniques in Business Succession Plans," "Creating Private Foundations" and "Charitable Tax Planning Techniques in Business Succession Plans."
Capital Trust Company of Delaware provides visually robust PowerPoint presentations and an array of other documents on basic and advanced estate-planning techniques, including charitable trusts, special needs trusts, private annuities, installment sales to defective grantor trusts, FLPs, generation-skipping trusts, GRATs, restricted management accounts, IRAs and total return unitrusts.
With Adobe Reader 7 or 8, you can view PDF files as a slideshow by saving the file from the website, launching it in Adobe Reader and clicking on the "Full Screen View" icon at the lower left corner of the screen.
You can, of course, construct your own PowerPoint slideshows or create PowerPoint slides to supplement the presentations. The techniques and nuances of client or group communication with PowerPoint are discussed in Trusts & Estates' September 2006 Technology Review article "So You Think You Know PowerPoint." For other such articles, check out the e-newsletter archive at trustsandestates.com.
The programs and PowerPoints I've mentioned in this article are all intended to help you deliver clear presentations in a time-efficient and effective manner. Because you don't have to start from scratch, you can create presentations with less effort and greater ease. Existing, content-rich and visually robust programs and presentations serve as valuable points of departure for communicating with your audience and addressing 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 [email protected].