You may be surprised at how many calculating resources that could be of use in your practice are available free on the Internet. How many times a day could you use quick, standalone calculations that would spare you having to launch larger, more comprehensive estate or financial planning programs? Here are a few examples of such calculating resources, arranged by category. Also included are resources that you may wish to suggest to clients for their personal use. Calculators and Internet resources relating to pension plans, individual retirement accounts (IRAs) and Roth IRAs will be addressed in the next newsletter. (In either Windows XP or the Macintosh, click on any blue, underlined text to launch the website described.)
The Bureau of Public Debt has the Online Savings Bond Calculator for computing the value of EE, E, I bonds and Savings Notes. Its Savings Bond Wizard™ software helps you to inventory and value United States Savings Bonds. Savings Bond Pro(R) is its new savings bond pricing system for finding the valuation of savings bonds by financial institutions, and value tables.
GiftLaw Calculator, from Crescendo Interactive, Inc., is available for inclusion in websites of planned giving organizations. As such, it can be found on the Texas A & M Foundation website, which also has other planned giving resources. Just click on "GiftLaw Calculator" on the left side menu. You'll find a free, online planned gifts calculator for professionals that enables you to make calculations for charitable remainder annuity trusts (CRATs), charitable remainder unitrusts (CRUTs) and charitable lead trusts (CLTs).
University of Georgia Planned Giving Calculator does basic calculations for charitable trusts, gift annuities and pooled-income funds.
PhilantroCalc for the Web is free via Ashland University as well as other charitable organizations' websites. It includes calculators for charitable gift annuities, CLTs, CRATs and CRUTs.
Assetstream provides an advanced calculator that computes the tax advantages of donating appreciated stock to charity, taking into account both federal and state income tax rates.
Charity Navigator provides a basic income tax giving calculator for donors in various tax brackets and helps to compute net cost and tax savings from charitable contributions.
Interest.Com Mortgage and Financial Calculators presents a variety of online and shareware loan and mortgage calculators for various loan situations.
Mortgage-Calc.com includes various online calculators to compute mortgage, mortgage refinancing and consolidation, financial and basic amortization.
Time Value Software has the ultimate online amortization program. It does sophisticated loan amortization calculation and amortization schedule preparation, including both fixed rate and adjustable rate mortgages.
Pine Grove Software offers the Loan*Calculator!Plus for Windows (download it from this site). This program calculates compound interest, including days between dates. It also addresses remaining balance, balloon payment, accelerated payment and refinancing. It's free to non-commercial users.
Social Security Administration provides online calculators for both basic and detailed calculations of Social Security benefits available to an individual; a more detailed calculator can be downloaded for free.
Advisortek has financial-planning calculators for rates of return, portfolio evaluation, retirement and investment diversification.
Bankrate.com furnishes a variety of online calculators, including: mortgages; small business (profit margins and internal ratios); credit cards; and CDs (laddering, interest, investments and savings goals).
CCH Financial Planning Toolkit presents a variety of online financial calculators including mortgage, loan, business, investment and retirement calculators. It offers planning tools (click on "Planning Tools") such as: a document assembly checklist; information and forms for annuity calculations; life expectancy tables; statutory power of attorney and medical treatment forms; worksheets for income tax planning; retirement planning tables and forms; and, from the Internal Revenue Service, income, estate and generation-skipping tax forms.
Fiscal Agents Financial Tools offers a variety of retirement, mortgage and loan calculators as well as personal planners; all apply Canadian methodology, but many of the calculators are useful to U.S. planners.
Time Value Software TCalc Financial Calculators is a robust collection of online calculators for personal financial planning, including future/present value, savings, loans, leasing, etc.
T. Rowe Price has a number of retirement-, tax- and estate-planning tools and worksheets at its Tools and Calculators web page.
Choose to Save has many calculators for consumer use addressing savings-related issues, including those pertaining to college funding, automotive financing, budgeting for expenses and saving, credit card rate and rebate evaluation and home mortgage analysis.
NASD offers a variety of financial, college, retirement and investment calculators for investors.
CPA Advisor.com, Stan DiLiberto, CPA, CPF, has a variety of calculators for taxes, savings, loans and investments (including Stock Option Calculator, Annual Stock Option Grants and Future Contracts Calculator).
1040 Tools is divided into "consumer tools" and "professional tools." The consumer tools are free to anyone visiting the site and include a "Quick Alternative Minimum Tax Estimator;" "Quick Federal Tax Calculator" for individual and corporation income tax; a simple loan amortization calculator based on monthly payments; a Social Security estimator based on date of birth and annual income; and Present Value and Future Value calculators. The professional tools (which allows 20 free uses with registration) include a "Historic High-Low-Mean Value Calculator" (helpful in preparing Form 706), and income in respect of a decedent (IRD) calculator. The site also calculates the cost basis of mutual funds, using the average cost single category method, by means of its "Mutual Fund Basis Calculator," which uses a database that covers more than 7,500 funds as far back as 1985.
The Internal Revenue Service offers its Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) Assistant to determine whether a given taxpayer is subject to AMT. It is an electronic version of the AMT Worksheet in the 1040 Instructions.
Insure.com is 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. This site includes a state-by-state list of insurance companies with ratings.
Corporate Tax Calculator (free download) from Denver Tax Software, Inc., computes either regular corporate tax, or uses personal service corporation (PSC) rates; handles capital loss carry forwards to the current year; and computes what any capital loss carry forward would be to future years. It treats Internal Revenue Code Section 1231 gains as capital gains and Section 1231 losses as ordinary losses; allows net operating loss (NOL) carry forwards; and, if needed, computes the charitable deduction limitation.
Dinkytown supplies a simple calculator for estimating self-employment tax.
AccountantsWorld has a free estate tax estimator, allowing data entry by groups of assets.
Fidelity Investments has an online basic estate calculator for single and married persons that does both current calculations and growth projections. It allows entry of asset and deduction classes and identification of assets by owner.
TriCapital Advisors estimates the effect of lifestyle on life expectancy and offers a longevity planner based on Harvard Medical School research.
Dean P. Foster (professor, Department of Statistics, Wharton University of Pennsylvania) publishes a life expectancy calculator using both current life expectancy tables and adjustments for life style.
The Cost of Living Calculator uses the historical Consumer Price Index for urban consumers (CPI-U) to convert dollar values between different years in order to compare the real buying power of historical dollar amounts, adjusted for inflation.
Department of Labor supplies the Consumer Price Indices at its website.
NASA supplies a variety of cost and price inflation calculators using a number of Indexes.
Calculators.com includes a sophisticated currency conversion calculator, a scientific calculator and various calculators for special industries and special purposes, including financial calculators and even an English/Metric unit converter.
Take a look at these online calculators and identify ones that you might use regularly. Create convenient access to them either by adding the sites to your Internet browser favorites list or by creating desktop icons for each site. To do this in Windows XP, right click on the name of the site in this Newsletter, click on "Copy Shortcut," then right click anywhere on your desktop and click on "Paste Shortcut." Mac users may click and drag the link from the browser window to the desktop.
To eliminate desktop clutter for these and other icons in Windows XP, you may create desktop folders for them. Right click anywhere on your desktop and on the menu that pops up select New/Folder. You may then rename the folder as you wish. To place an icon in the folder, just place your mouse cursor on the icon (it will turn into a hand), press the left mouse button and drag the icon to the folder you want it to be in. Mac users should make a new folder on the desktop when in the "Finder" and in the "File" menu go to "new folder" and drag any desktop icon to the folder. You may click on any folder to reveal the icons it contains.
Cost and convenience are major factors in determining a software's utility. They should satisfy a real need to the extent that free online calculators perform frequently needed that are not included in commercial software packages or that would require your firing up a major software program. They also may provide a way to check calculations made by other software. A number of the listed calculators may be incorporated into your website as a service to your clients.
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, Nebr. 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 [email protected].
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