For the main resources for legal materials that deal with estate planning and administration you might begin with the Web sites of national organizations, such as the American Bar Association’s Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section public Web site at www.abanet.org/rppt, the American Bar Association’s Tax Section public Web site at www.abanet.org/tax, or the areas of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel, Web site that are available to the public at www.actec.org. These Web sites include numerous links to other sites relating to the Trust and Estates practice.
Legal-Specific Web Sites
There are also a number of legal-specific Web sites that host search categories germane to our particular practice area. Some of the most useful ones are the FindLaw site at www.findlaw.com, the ALSO American Law Sources On-Line site at www.lawsources.com, and the Heros Gamos site at www.hg.org. The Internet Law Library site at www.lawguru.com/ ilawlib/index.html, links to U.S. federal laws, state laws, treaties, and legal profession directories, permits word search of the U.S. Code, and provides multiple searches of law related Web sites. In addition, helpful resources, including estate planning papers, can be found at the Estate Planner’s and Administrator’s list at www.geocities.com/jasonhavens/LREP.html. Tax law cites around the world may be found at www. catalaw.com/topics/ Tax.shtml.
Legal Research — Primary Sources
One of the things trust and estate practitioners do a lot of is legal research. Here we want to know about resources that are both reliable and current, and hopefully free. When it comes to federal legislation, the one-stop shop for this is the Thomas U.S. Congress Legislative Information Web site at thomas.loc.gov. In addition, the U.S. House of Representatives used to maintain the House Internet Law Library that included a wonderful collection of state probate law links at www.house.gov. However, they abandoned maintaining this valuable resource in late May of 1999. Fortunately, a whole host of alternative Web sites have taken on the job of hosting, maintaining and updating that same content. A catalog of many of these sites can be found at law.etext.org/reorg.htm. In addition, the U.S. House still maintains the Office of Law Revision Counsel version of the U.S. Code at uscode.house. gov.
When it comes to U.S. Supreme Court and other court opinions, state statutes and Title 26 of the U.S. Code (the Internal Revenue Code), perhaps the best resource to use for this is the Cornell Law School Legal Information Institute Web site, which is located at www.law.cornell.edu. The opinions of the U.S. Supreme Court can be found at supct.law.cornell.edu/supct, the statutes of the various states can be found at www.law.cornell.edu/states/index.html, and Title 26 U.S.C.A. can be found at www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/26. Also, the U.S. Tax Court has a site where its decisions since 1/1/99 are now being posted at www.ustaxcourt.gov/ustcweb.htm.
In addition, there are two relatively inexpensive resources for finding and searching for state and federal case law generally. One is the VersusLaw Web site, which is located at www.versuslaw.com. For $6.95 per month per lawyer, one can have unlimited access to its database of all the case law that is currently available for free on the Internet. A second, relatively new one is called TheLaw.net, which is located at www.thelaw.net. For a $295 per year one can download their proprietary software and thereby have access to their rather complete database of state and federal case law, in addition to many other legal resources. Of course, there are always the three well known case law and legislative research resources, Lexis-Nexis, Westlaw and Loislaw. Each of these companies now maintains a Web site, at, respectively, www.lexis-nexis.com/lncc, www.westlaw.com, and www.loislaw.com.
Internal Revenue Service
Of course, the mainstay set of Web sites for all of us are those that are maintained by the Internal Revenue Service. The front door to their site is the Digital Daily site, which is located at www.irs.ustreas.gov. From here one can gain access to all sorts of useful subsites. These include the IRS Regulations since 8/1/95, which are located at www.irs.ustreas.gov/tax_regs/index.html, the Internal Revenue Service Bulletins since 1995-02, which are located at www.irs.ustreas.gov/ind_info/bullet.html, the Private Letter Rulings since 1999, which are located at www.irs.ustreas.gov/plain/news/efoia/determine.html, the IRS Forms and Publications, which are located at www.irs.ustreas.gov/forms_pubs/index.html, the IRS On-Line Fill-In Forms, which are located at www.irs.ustreas.gov/forms_pubs/fillin.html, and the searchable text of IRS Publication 78, which lists all of the qualified IRC Section 501(c)(3) exempt organizations and is located at www.irs.ustreas.gov/prod/search/eosearch.html. The Fill-in Forms may be filled in on-line or saved in PDF format and filled in with Acrobat Reader. Another Web site with links to published IRS Rulings and Revenue Procedures is: http://www.taxlinks.com.
State-Specific Probate and Tax Web Sites
Another useful set of resources are state-specific probate Web sites that are not necessarily connected with any of the state or local bar associations or their trust and estate sections. One of the best of these is the Texas Probate Web site that is maintained by Texas attorney, Glenn Karisch at www.texasprobate.com. Glenn’s site hosts a variety of useful links lists, including one that is for a whole host for federal law and tax research Web sites at www.texasprobate.com/main/federallinks.htm and one that is for a comprehensive list of state law Web site at www.texasprobate.com/main/statelinks.htm. Another excellent one that concentrates on Pennsylvania law is Dan Evans’ Pennsylvania Estate and Trust Cybrary, which is located at evans-legal.com/dan. A third, that is particularly useful for current and historical AFR rate information is the Pillsbury, Madison & Sutro Web site at www.pmstax.com/afr. In addition, many law firms, both local and national, now maintain useful trusts and estates material on their firm Web sites. A couple of local ones from the authors’ home state of Colorado are Baird Brown’s Elder Law Web site at www.bbbpc.com and the Web site of the law firm of Millard & Hunter PC at www.millhunt.com.
State-specific tax information can be obtained for free from a variety of Web sites. Sources for individual state tax forms and instructions include the following: www.aicpa.org/ states/info/index.htm, www.cyber-cpa.com/statetax.html, and www.irs.ustreas.gov/prod/ forms_pubs/ftaframes .html. State specific tax information is available at: www.taxsites.com/ state.html. The Web site of the Multistate Tax Commission is located at: www.mtc.gov.
There are also a variety of general resources that one might find useful from time to time. Chief among these might be the Web sites of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws NCCUSL, as the full text of all the Uniform Acts and all of the study drafts are generally available there now. NCCUSL’s main Web site is located at www.nccusl.org, and the draft and final versions of their various Uniform Acts can be found at the University of Pennsylvania Web site at www.law.upenn.edu/bll/ulc/ulc_frame.htm.
Valuation Web Sites
Another set of useful resources are valuations sites, such as the CUSIP Lookup tool that is maintained by Cornell University and can be used to look up CUSIP numbers for various securities. It is located at research.gsm.cornell.edu/research/search.html. If one needs to value an automobile, an excellent place to go for this is the Kelley Blue Book site at www.kbb.com. Appraisals for various kinds of electronic equipment, musical instruments and other chattels may be obtained through the Orion Blue Book at: www.bluebook.com/appraisals/index.htm. One source for appraisal of aircraft is: www.aviationappraisals.com.
If one wants to value stocks and bonds on-line, try the EVP Web site at www.evpsys.com, which is hosted by Estate Valuations & Pricing Systems Inc., as they currently have an exclusive contract with the IRS to provide their estate and gift tax auditors with all of their publicly traded securities valuations. For a one-time lifetime charge of $100, EVP allows the download of their proprietary Windows-based Internet valuation software so one can begin valuing securities portfolios as of any date desired at lightning fast speed and for less than $2 per security. Two alternative sources for such valuations are the Evaluation Services Appraise Web site at www.appraisenj.com/index.asp and the Financial Data Service Inc. Wallace Pricing Service Web site at www.financialdata.com. If one needs to value U.S. Savings Bonds, try the U.S. Bureau of Public Debt Saving Bond Web site, which is located at www.publicdebt.treas.gov/sav/sav.htm, the Web site of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York at app.ny.frb.org/sbr/, or the My Savings Bonds Web site, which is located at www.mysavingsbonds.com. The Web site of the Bureau of Public Debt includes details regarding various US Savings Bonds, including the new Series I inflation indexed bonds, as well as forms for Loss, Request for Reissue, savings Authorization, etc, and tables in PDF format for Adobe Acrobat Reader. The free Bureau of Public Debt Savings Bond Wizard software for the inventorying and valuation of United States Savings Bonds is located at: www.publicdebt.treas.gov/sav/savwizar.htm. If one needs to organize, keep track of and value things like stamps, coins or baseball cards, as well as U. S. Savings Bonds, take a look at some of the software offerings at the MMR Software Web site at www.mmrsoft.com. That site includes FAQs and discussions of various aspects of United States Savings Bonds.
Life Insurance Products
The Internet also contains numerous resources relating to life insurance products. A Web resource for obtaining quotes for various life insurance products is located at www.quotesmith.com. An online tax tool for life insurance and annuities that demonstrates how to calculate the tax implications of surrenders, dividends, loans, and exchanges for all types of life insurance and annuity products is located at: data.insure.com/life/taxtool.cfm. This site includes a state by state list of insurance companies with ratings. For quick reference to the tax consequences of various transactions involving various types of life insurance policies, such as surrender or exchange of a policy see: data.insure.com/life/taxtool.cfm.
Information About People
Another commonly needed set of resources is information about people, either dead or alive. Often, one can obtain some leads to useful information about well-known and famous people through the National Archives Information Locator, which is located in Washington DC at www.bara.gov/nara/nara.html. If public records information is needed, try the Public Records Finder at www. publicrecordfinder.com, as it is advertised as the only Internet search engine that is designed to locate free public record sites and they claim to have gathered over 6000 links to such records to date. Another partially fee-based public records search site is the KnowX.com Web site, which is located at www.knowx.com and claims to be the most comprehensive source for public information on the Internet. If one just needs to try and locate people, such as long lost heirs or devisees, one might try The Ultimates Lookup site at www.theultimates.com which provides 25 different Internet lookup services in one place, including the Ultimates White and Yellow Pages. If it is family tree information that is needed, first pay a visit to the Mormon Church FamilySearch™ Web site at www.familysearch.org, as even if you do not find what you are looking for there, you are encouraged to share with them for inclusion in their database whatever family information you are able to uncover from other sources. Two other related sites that are worth visiting if one is searching for someone are the Ancestry.com Web site at www.ancestry.com and the Geneology.com Web site at www.genealogy.com.
Estates Lawyers Or Estate Services
If you are looking for estates lawyers or estate services in other towns or cities, or even foreign jurisdictions, several Web sites now exist, other than the traditional Martindale-Hubbell Lawyers Home Pages™ Web site at www.lawyers.com and the Westlaw Lawyer FirmSiteÆ Web site at www.lawoffice.com, that make searchable versions of their membership rosters available to the general public. These sites include the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) www.actec.org, the International Academy of Estate and Trust Law (IAETL) www.international-academy .org, and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA) www.naela.org/Applications/ConsumerDirectory/index.cfm. In addition, the ABA Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section maintains a searchable Web-based site called State Deed Preparation that lists estate planning attorneys throughout the United States who are prepared to assist with local real estate title transfer requirements that is located at: www.abanet.org/rppt/links_listservs/deedlist.html. Easy-to-use directories of banks, accountants, attorneys, financial planners, asset sales and other services useful in the trusts and estates practice, both in the United States and internationally, organized by state, and city is located at: fiduciarychoice.com/index.htm.
Retirement Plans and IRAs
If one is looking for reliable information about Retirement Plans and IRA’s, perhaps the best site to visit is the Brentmark Software IRA Web site, which is located at www.rothira.com, as the stated purpose of this site is "to provide technical and planning information on IRAs and Roth IRAs to practitioners and consumers." If it is substantive legal and tax information about IRAs and Pension Plans that is needed, we can highly recommend the Web site of Texas attorney Noel C. Ice, which is located at www.trustsandestates.net, as Noel is a frequent contributor to the ABA-PTL Discussion List the searchable Web-based archives of which are located at mail.abanet.org/archives/aba-ptl.html and one of the acknowledged national experts in these fields of the law practice, plus his Web site is loaded with a whole host of articles on these subjects and a series of 14 downloadable (for free) Excel calculation spreadsheets, including for MRDs and RBDs. A third site that is worth a visit is the Web site that Boston attorney Natalie B. Choate maintains for the promotion and sale of her popular retirement planning handbook entitled "Life and Death Planning for Retirement Benefits", which is located at www.ataxplan.com. For a Web site having an exhaustive compendium of articles about traditional and Roth IRAs, including links to other sites, and that presents a variety of pension related calculators, see www.rothira.com.
Charitable Gift Planning
For those of us who are involved in charitable gift planning, we need to be aware of the Web site of the National Committee on Planned Giving, which is located at www.ncpg.org. NCPG represents over 180 local Planned Giving councils and related organizations that are located throughout the United States, holds a national seminar each fall that is attended by over 2,000 planned giving professionals, and maintains a variety of planned giving and legislative resources on its Web site, including detailed information about the state-by-state regulation of charitable gift annuities. The comparable Web site in Canada for information about Canadian charities is the Charity Village site at www.charityvillage.com. If our clients are considering forming a family foundation or making a contribution to a donor advised fund, two Web sites that are well worth visiting before the planning is completed are The Foundation Center, which is located at www.fdncenter.org, and the Council on Foundations, which is located at www.cof.org. If it is free technical advice and sample charitable trust forms that are need, then one definitely needs to pay a visit to the Planned Giving Design Center’s main USA Web site or one of its subsidiary sites. First go to www.pgdc.net/USA and register (required, but it is free) and their system will automatically assign you to the locally hosted site that is nearest where you live or work. If you are interested in knowing which tax forms need to be filed for a particular gift vehicle or organization go the IRS Forms and Instructions section of Advisor Resources (organized by gift vehicle) at www.pgdc.net/DU/AR_FED-index.
If information about a nonprofit organization is needed, other than whether it is listed in IRS Publication 78 (see infra), one of the best sources for this sort of information is the GuideStar Web site, as they maintain a searchable on-line database of the annual Forms 990 that nonprofit organizations have to file for more than 700,000 such organizations that are located in the United States. If, on the other hand, information is needed about specific charities that can be passed along to your donors or clients to assist them in evaluating whether or not to make a gift to a particular charity or type of charity, then pay a visit to the National Charities Information Bureau Web site at www.give.org, as their stated mission is "to promote informed giving and to enable more contributors to make sound giving decisions, as NCIB believes that donors are entitled to accurate information about the charitable organizations that seek their support ...and... that wellinformed givers will ask questions and make judgments that will lead to an improved level of performance by charitable organizations."
E-Mail Discussion Lists and Archives
One additional free and valuable resource that is available on the Internet today are the various searchable and publicly accessible Web-based archives that now exist for many of the popular e-mail discussion lists. Perhaps the most popular one for estate planners is the ABA-PTL List that is sponsored by the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the American Bar Association. The Web-based archive for this list that goes back to April of 1997 is now located at mail.abanet.org/archives/aba-ptl.html. A backup version of the same archive from January of 1998 forward is currently being maintained at home.ease.lsoft.com/archives/aba-ptl-pub.html. To subscribe to the ABA-PTL listserv, go to: www.abanet.org/rppt/ links_listservs/listservs.html. Another popular one that is also maintained by the ABA RPPT Section is the 3DT List (stand for Deals, Death and Taxes), whose Web-based archive is now located at www.mail.abanet.org/archive/3dt.html. A Web-based archive of listserv messages is maintained by the ABA Tax Section for the ABA-TAX List, which is located at mail.abanet.org/ archives/ aba-tax.html. A full catalog of all the public ABA Lists and their archives can be found at www.abanet.org/discussions. A comparable Web-based archive of all the list discussion traffic on the GIFT-PL List that is hosted by the National Committee on Planned Giving is located at listserv.iupui.edu/archives/gift-pl.html. In addition, several gift planning lists and their archives are hosted by Charity Channel at the Charity Channel Forums Web site at www.charitychannel.com/forums.
Estate Planning and Administration Software
For information regarding estate planning and administration software, one ought to start with a visit to Dan Evans’ special Web site for his 1996 ABA book entitled "Wills, Trusts and Technology - An Estate Lawyer’s Guide to Automation," which is located at evans-legal.com/ dan/wtt.html, and the updated version of Appendix A from that book listing all of the available software products and vendors, which is located at evans-legal.com/dan/wtt-new.html. A comparable listing of such software and their vendors is currently being maintained at www.sohoconsumer.com/legal_sw.htm. One additional useful resource is Jerry Lawson’s ABA book entitled "The Complete Internet Handbook for Lawyers," which discusses in 361 action-packed pages why the Internet and e-mail should matter to lawyers and contains a "Legal Research Short List" that was compiled by two respected law librarians, a hypertext version of which is available at no charge at www.lawyernetbook.com.
Thus, as can be seen from the above, the Internet is replete with a whole host of helpful and mostly free Web sites that can be of use to trusts and estates professionals throughout the United States and the world, especially with respect to United States and Canadian tax and estate and trust planning and administration issues.
Donald H. Kelley is an attorney residing in Highlands Ranch, Colorado and is Of Counsel to the firm of Kelley, Scritsmier & Byrne, P.C. of North Platte, Nebraska. He is co-author of Estate Planning for Farmers and Ranchers (West Group 1996), Family Business Organizations, (West Group 1996), and Intuitive Estate Planner Software, (West Group 1998). He received his B.S. and L.L B. from the University of Nebraska, and is a member of the Bars of Nebraska (Past Chair: Probate Section) and Colorado (Past Chair: Agricultural Law Section). He is a Past Regent, and past Chair of the Technology in the Practice Committee, of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel.
Joseph G. Hodges Jr. is an attorney in solo practice in Denver, Colorado. He received his B.A from Lake Forest College, and his J.D. from the University of Colorado School of Law, and is a member of the City of Denver, Colorado (Past Chair: Probate Section) and American Bar Associations. He is a member of the Council of the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the ABA and a Co-Chair of its Technology Committee, as well as the Sections delegate to the ABA’s Section Officers Conference Technology Committee. He is a Regent of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and a member of its Technology in the Practice and State Laws Committees.
Some parts of this article have been adapted from two previous articles on this subject that were recently published by these two authors, one in the January 2001 issue of WGL/RIA’s Estate Planning magazine (Kelley, "No-Cost Internet Resources for Estate Planners") and the other in the February-March 2001 issue of CCH’s Journal of Practical Estate Planning (Hodges, "Internet Resources of Trusts and Estates Lawyers").