From the June/July 2008 Review of
Estate Planning Systems
CCH’s ViewPlan Advanced is a professional system designed to focus specifically
on estate planning and gift taxation as methods of reducing or eliminating wealth
transfer taxes. The program offers full support for the spectrum of family,
grantor and charitable trusts, as well as pooled income funds. It provides scenario
creation tools that enable comparison of various plans and the effects of variables
on outcomes. The system can be used to generate an unlimited number of plans
for any number of clients with graphically enhanced output and auto-generated
explanatory text for client communications and reporting. Support is available
for federal and all state (plus D.C.) inheritance taxes. ViewPlan Advanced costs
$1,659 per year for a single user; additional networkable licenses can be added.
In addition to the ProSystem fx suite of accounting products, CCH
also produces several other planning-related publications and programs, including
the Federal Estate and Gift Tax Reporter, the Financial and Estate Planning
Library and the Estate & Gift Tax Module for ProSystem fx Tax.
ViewPlan is one of only two programs in this review (along with BNA’s
system) that is developed by a vendor who also offers estate and gift tax return
Ease of Use/Basic Functionality — 4.5 Stars
The primary interface for ViewPlan Advanced provides a full screen with traditional
pull-down menus across the top, a customizable navigation control panel below
these menus, a work area taking up the bulk of the window, and a vertical side
menu that gives access to the system’s core feature areas: The Client
list, Estate Details, Plans, Comparisons and Presentations.
Client plans are saved in a Windows Explorer format within “Databases”
that can contain multiple clients and client files.
ViewPlan Advanced’s client selection function allows searching by a variety
of information and provides sorting and filtering options. When client files
are opened or created, an additional icon-based toolbar is available, giving
access to planning-specific functions, such as calculators, notes, customizable
shortcuts, and access to charts and graphs. The work screen within a client
plan defaults to the Basic Flowchart, from which the user can easily access
and enter estate details, compare the plan with other scenarios, or run reports.
An array of “quick calculators” is available, allowing the user
to see the basic effects of variables on estate tax, GST or gift tax related
Data-entry subwindows provide intuitive forms with pull-down selection lists
where applicable. During entry of Estate Details, for instance, users can select
from several pre-defined asset types or create their own, while also having
the option to view a QuickPlan View or a Detailed View. ViewPlan Advanced can
support an unlimited number of assets for each client in 10 categories. The
QuickPlan View displays a simple summary of client data, while the Detailed
option enables drilldown capabilities.
Additionally, tabs provide an easy way to move between data-entry tasks, such
as when entering beneficiaries, when the user can move between General Information,
the Client’s Estate, Spouse Estate and QTIP. Up to three client plans
can be viewed, side-by-side, at any time or printed on the Comparison Report.
ViewPlan Advanced can be used in conjunction with CCH’s Tax Research Network
and other offerings, alerting users to potential tax issues and providing an
easy-to-access research function. The system Calculation Log maintains a full-time
audit trail that shows all of the calculations that went into arriving at specific
Calculations — 5 Stars
Calculations are made in real-time as data is entered and transferred throughout
an applicable plan while updating all dynamic visual presentations. ViewPlan
Advanced can handle virtually all types of advanced asset transfers, including
CRATs, CRUTs, NIMCRUTs, CLATs, Simple CLATs and CLUTS, GRATs, GRUTs, QPRTs,
GRITs, SCINs, Installment Sales and Individual Private Annuities. Each of the
plans prepared through the system can be reviewed.
Client Presentation Tools — 5 Stars
ViewPlan Advanced has great client deliverable reports and computerized presentations
that can include multiple options for visual elements, including bar and line
charts, pie graphs and other items. The system includes pre-created customizable
text for many of the reports, helping to explain to clients the meaning and
significance of certain variables and outcomes, which can further aid in illustrating
the benefits of establishing particular types of trusts depending upon their
unique situation. Reports can be exported into Microsoft Word and PDF and can
import/export to and from alternative planning formats like Beneview and Factuary.
The program also provides two-way integration with many of the programs in the
ProSystem fx line.
Help, Support & Training Options — 5 Stars
The ViewPlan Advanced program includes ample assistive features and a Help utility,
in addition to in-program access to research, content and support links. The
company’s online support center provides FAQs, program updates, electronic
user manuals and tutorials available in video, audio and PDF format. Technical
support is included with the program. Various live and web-based training options
are available, including sessions at the company’s annual user conference.
Relative Value –4. 5 Stars
Ideally suited to firms that have high net worth clients with complex asset
bases, ViewPlan Advanced provides a wealth of capabilities, enabling the creation
of virtually any type of estate, with scenario tools that help ensure that the
most beneficial plan is put into place. The system can run as a standalone or
networked program. For firms already using ProSystem fx programs, ViewPlan
Advanced is a natural addition to their practice, but it can provide an equally
substantial benefit to all higher-end practices.
2008 Overall Rating: