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Review of Estate Planning Systems — 2006

While there may be talk of eliminating the Federal Estate Tax (FET), the products in this review give no sign of that happening anytime soon.

From the June/July 2006 Issue

While there may be talk of eliminating the Federal Estate Tax (FET), the products
in this review give no sign of that happening anytime soon. And even if the
FET eventually does disappear, there are still many good reasons to use one
of the programs reviewed in this year’s estate planning lineup. Reducing
or eliminating estate tax is only one of many objectives with which a client
may need your help. Other important objectives include business succession planning,
charitable gifting, retirement security, educational goals for yourself or your
children, and life insurance protection for your family.

Even though the name of this review is “Estate Planning,” most
of these products take a much broader approach and address many other financial
planning aspects that a client will encounter throughout their life. I’m
reminded of an old board game I used to play, called “Life.” This
particular game took you on an imaginary road trip of sorts, with many different
chance happenings determined by a number on a spinning wheel. Some of these
events were positive, others negative. Each event seemed to either make money
or lose money, and the challenge was to reach the end of the trip with money
left over. It seemed like a crazy game, but looking back now I can see a certain
resemblance to the real thing!

Estate and financial planning software is designed to eliminate some of the
unpredictability from life’s financial ups and downs. With proper planning,
your client should be able to anticipate and plan for many different events,
both expected and unexpected. Of course, the unexpected is always the most difficult
aspect of any plan, but even those events can at least be insured so that they
minimize the negative impact on your client’s other goals.

The products reviewed here are targeted at a number of different audiences,
so you want to be careful to look beyond the star ratings provided. Some of
the packages reviewed are designed from a lawyer’s perspective, some from
a general accounting practitioner’s perspective, and still others from
a financial product sales perspective. Most importantly, you need a tool that
fits your needs and your practice. Although these are very powerful tools, I
was also struck by the fact that in order to make effective use of their capabilities,
the practitioner will no doubt need a thorough understanding of many legal and
tax issues that are so important to a properly executed plan.

Each review takes into consideration six areas that are important when deciding
on a package that best suits your needs and practice: Comprehensiveness,
Reliability & Ease of Use; Calculations;
Customization, Flexibility & Features;
Client Presentation Tools; Company History,
Support & Help; and Relative Value. Given
the complexity of this product category in general, it is difficult to do these
topics justice in a limited space. You’ll certainly want to do additional
detailed research regarding specific features that you may be looking for in
your area of specialty. Each company’s website provides a wealth of information,
as well as demo products.

Hopefully, these reviews will give you a good starting point and orientation
for selecting a package that meets your planning needs. 

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

BNA Software — BNA Estate &
Gift Tax Planner
BNA’s Estate & Gift Tax Planner includes
a depth of features and calculations that reflect the company’s
expertise in all areas of estate planning and tax calculation.
Brentmark Software, Inc. —
Estate Planning Tools
Estate Planning Tools is a handy collection of
over 50 Estate Planning Tools and nearly as many common Financial Planning
Tools. This program lets you quickly compute one or more of the standard
planning techniques …
Brentmark Software, Inc. —
The Kugler Estate Analyzer
For smaller offices, or those with a limited estate
planning practice, the Kugler Estate Analyzer provides the essentials
in an easy-to-use product that gets the job done with a minimum of fuss.
CCH, a Wolters Kluwer business
— CCH ViewPlan Advanced
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 …

Emerging Information Systems
Inc. (EISI) — NaviPlan Extended Offline
EISI introduced NaviPlan in 1990 and boasts a user
base of more than 70,000. NaviPlan is another product in this review lineup
that takes a broader approach to the planning process, including both
goal-based financial planning as well as cash flow-based estate planning,
which focuses on tax reduction and maximizing the amount of assets that
can be passed to heirs.
Financial Profiles, Inc. —
Profiles+ Professional
Profiles+ Professional is aimed at the financial
advisor market, with tools that allow the advisor to help maximize sales,
while helping clients achieve specific financial and estate planning goals.
It is utilized by brokerage houses, securities dealers and financial planners.
Some of the company’s case studies include Securian, Waddell &
Reed, SunAmerica, 1st Global, SunTrust and others.
Thomson West — Intuitive
Estate Planner
Intuitive Estate Planner (IEP) is designed from
a lawyer’s point of view, rather than from an accountant’s
or financial planner’s perspective. While many of the tools are
the same as other packages reviewed, a greater emphasis is placed on the
legal aspects of ownership transfer, asset titling, wills and other related
topics. The latest version includes the addition of modeling for financial
planning, enhanced facility to enter distributions for individual heirs

Review of Estate Planning Systems
2006 — Executive Summary
This is an impressive crop of products, each representing
a unique approach to the multi-faceted problem of financial and estate planning.
The product ratings below are classified according to the six basic criteria
chosen for evaluation and review purposes.