CCH ViewPlan Advanced is a comprehensive, capable estate planning engine that
puts many tools and presentation features at your fingertips. The latest version
(4.7) introduces a number of new enhancements, including the Charitable Gift
Annuity Advanced Transfer Calculator, American Council on Gift Annuities (ACGA)
rates, support for the HotDocs answer file (*.ANS) format, and the ability to
export to *.PDF and *.RTF file formats.
Comprehensiveness, Reliability & Ease of Use — 5 Stars
The main window has a vertical navigation toolbar docked at the left side of
the screen with icons for Clients, Estate Details, Plans, Comparisons and Presentations.
Clicking on any of the icons leads to detailed data-entry screens for each area.
Once you’ve added basic client information, you can begin entering the
client’s estate details. These details include information about beneficiaries
and distributions, client preferences, assets and liabilities, general gifts,
property transfers, expenses, losses, prior gifts, generation skipping tax (GST),
cash needs and liquidity costs. You can select either Detailed View or Quick
Plan View, which determines the level of detail entered for each of the data-entry
areas. As you click on each item in the list, a multi-tab input screen opens
for that item type. For example, clicking on Assets and Liabilities opens a
window that shows a list of detailed assets and liabilities that have been entered.
You simply click the Add button to begin entering information about that specific
item. The information you supply on the input screens depends on what type of
item you add. For example, a Cash item allows you to enter the description,
asset value, ownership (client, spouse, joint or community property), growth
rate until first death, and the growth rate after first death. A Details button
is available and allows for more information to be entered regarding liquidation,
proceeds, liabilities, income, additions, withdrawals, expenses and gifts. This
layout and data-entry process is very consistent and easy to follow for all
of the Estate Details screens. The program lets you enter as much or as little
detail as desired. Of course, more accurate results will be obtained with more
Calculations — 5 Stars
The screens described above are a combination of current data (assets, liabilities,
etc.) and planning techniques (gifts, transfers, etc.). Within the General Gifts
section, you enter one-time gifts as well as gifting program details. For each
gift entered, the screen displays a grid list of assets, which is used to specify
the funding source(s) of each gift. You can specify the year to start, year
to stop and the recipient details. The Advanced Transfers section includes a
broad range of trusts and other transfer mechanisms that can be used by the
estate planner. Trust and other transfer types supported include CRAT, CRUT,
Pooled Income Fund, CLAT, CLUT, GRAT, GRUT, QPRT, GRIT, Private Annuity, SCIN,
and Installment Sale.
Customization, Flexibility & Features — 4.5 Stars
ViewPlan automatically generates sample plans for your client based on the information
you have entered. For married clients, the sample plans generated include All
to Spouse, Optimum Marital and No Marital. Other plan types (also called scenarios)
available include Variable Marital, Variable Bypass Before Taxes, Variable Bypass
After Taxes, and After Tax. You can add a new plan or copy and modify an existing
plan. Initially, plans are based on the same set of information entered in the
Estate Details screens. However, you can enter overrides to modify certain aspects
of the general information that has been entered. Each plan also allows you
to select specific options, such as the timing of deaths, asset growth rates,
state law assumptions for client and spouse, display options, and generation
skipping tax (GST). Selecting “View” from this screen opens a screen
with graphical and text details of the information entered and the calculations
used to arrive at the specific plan’s result. The flowchart view provides
a powerful tool that will certainly help clients visually understand the complexities
of the proposed plan.
To help illustrate the benefit of one plan over another, you can create a
plan comparison report that visually compares up to three existing estate plans.
The comparison provides both a comparison graphic and columnar text report to
easily see the differences between various plan alternatives. The Presentation
Wizard lets you customize a set of reports and graphs for presentation to the
client. This provides a lot of flexibility to pick and choose the set of data
and reports that you feel would be most helpful for your situation.
Client Presentation Tools — 5 Stars
ViewPlan provides a nice library of reports, including Basic Plan, Retirement,
Cash Needs, Liquidity Costs, Probate/Living Trust, Bypass Allocation, Beneficiary
Allocation, Section 6166, Section 303, Glossary, Generation Skipping (Basic
and Multiskip), Advanced Transfers (Primary, Charitable Deduction/Actuarial
Calculations, Income Tax, Gift Tax, and Annual Results), plus numerous data
input reports. A flowchart visually details the flow of assets from client(s)
to heirs. A Scenario Explanation provides a nice plain-English client presentation
that explains key items from the estate plan. You can combine multiple estate
plan reports to build a customized presentation for your clients.
Company History, Support & Help — 5 Stars
CCH is a large provider of tax and business law information and software. With
numerous accounting and legal publications, the company uses its authoritative
research expertise to bring a solid foundation to its software products. The
company employs a team of accountants and attorneys who are responsible for
the ViewPlan product.
ViewPlan’s Help screens are easy to read and have many links to related
topics and program areas. Topics covered include program navigation and operation,
as well as detailed information about various estate planning techniques supported
by the program.
Relative Value — 4 Stars
ViewPlan is priced at $1,565 for the first year; renewals are $860 per year.
LAN pricing is also available. This is a powerful tool that has a very user-friendly
interface. You can enter information in any order and at whatever level of detail
you wish. This lets the attorney or financial planner spend as much or as little
time working with the client as they wish, yet allows them to provide valuable
information immediately, even if it is somewhat of a broad estimate. The graphs
and presentation material are professionally done, and the online Help covers
both theory and usage topics.
2006 Overall Rating: 5 Stars