April 1999 Issue


Wealth Transfer Planning System From RIA

By Paul D. Warner

RIA Group's Wealth Transfer Planning System combines estate planning research materials with a logic-based word processing system. The subscription is part of and includes limited access to RIA's Estate Planning System, which provides access to the Internal Revenue Code, Federal tax regulations, general counsel memoranda, revenue procedures, Federal and state estate planning forms and instructions, and rulings. Also included in the subscription is Estate Planner's Alert, a monthly newsletter. Other parts of the Estate Planning System require separate subscriptions.

Wealth Transfer Planning maintains client data, provides access to the Estate Planning System research materials, and provides the ability to custom draft an array of state-specific forms. The forms are designed for use in 49 states (excepting Louisiana) and the District of Columbia.

Wealth Transfer Planning is built on SmartWordsTM, a sophisticated word processing tool developed by the Technology Group that combines document assembly, word processing, and a database of interactive estate planning templates known as SmartWords documents.

Wealth Transfer Planning documents contain logical links to the client database and a text library of estate planning documents. Unlike static documents, the Wealth Transfer Planning documents provide a "what-if" capability by replacing data or sections of text as you work with the system. In addition, the documents provide hyperlinks into RIA's Estate Planning System.

Wealth Transfer Planning documents are assembled from three blocks of data:

  • Client questions and answers (e.g., names, personal data)
  • Document questions and answers (e.g., types of gifts, fiduciary powers)
  • The system database.

    The Q&As can be bypassed and the data entered directly into the documents. Doing this prevents the automatic links in the system from working. A warning against bypassing the Q&As appears if this shortcut is selected; doing so prevents a custom document from being created that utilizes all the program's features.

    Client Questions and Answers

    The client Q&A section consists of familiar questions (name, address, age, etc.), along with a parallel set for a spouse. In addition, the client Q&A section asks a series of estate planning oriented questions for the client and a spouse, including--

  • size of the estate
  • charitable motivation
  • life expectancy
  • retirement benefits
  • insurance
  • closely held business interests
  • real estate
  • asset protection issues. Creating Documents

    Once these questions have been answered, you have the option to select whether you want to work with a single document or a document package.

    The single document option provides the following classes of legal forms:

  • Wills
  • Trusts (nine types), e.g., revocable
  • Advice (13 topics), e.g., grantor retained annuity
  • Powers of attorney (four), e.g., health care proxy
  • Agreements (three), e.g., marital partition
  • Business agents (two), e.g., family limited partnership
  • Client matters (four), e.g., client engagement letter.

    Selecting a document package provides grouped forms. A Q&A needs to be run for each document in the package. For example, the married basic package provides the following forms:

  • Revocable trust for child
  • Revocable trust for spouse
  • Will for client
  • Will for spouse.

    The other groups of forms are as follows:

  • Single basic, e.g., will
  • Married extras, e.g., durable power of attorney
  • Single extras, e.g., custom durable power of attorney
  • Charitable, e.g., client remainder trust
  • Insurance, e.g., split dollar insurance
  • Homes, e.g., personal residence trust.

    Each option is presented as an icon together with a brief description. For example, clicking on the "comprehensive will" icon brings up the following description:

    This is a comprehensive form for preparing a simple will, pourover will, a will with little or no tax planning, as well as wills containing marital trusts and GST tax planning. You can also prepare a will creating testamentary charitable trusts (charitable remainder trust, charitable lead trust, and wholly charitable trust).

    You are also presented with the option to run the document Q&A or to print the form. The Q&A option results in dozens of questions, grouped in various categories. Each question is accompanied by a comment or more questions. The answers are used to generate the customized document, which appears after the last question is answered. Data added to the document from the client and document Q&As appears in a blue font. IRC sections are presented in a green font and are hotlinked to the Estate Planning System. Each of the Q&A items has an icon in the left margin of the form. Clicking on this icon brings up the related question, which can be used to make changes. The change can be seen in the on-screen form and provides for an immediate what-if capability. The document also contains links to explanations of each of the items in the document.

    The document window provides very extensive options for customizing and analyzing. Notes can be appended, if necessary, and suppressed in the client's copy. In addition, a fully annotated version of the document containing all of the Q&As can be printed. The document window even provides an annotated executive summary, and the forms generated can be customized for the client's state.

    Editing Documents. The documents generated by Wealth Transfer Planning can be edited directly. However, changes made directly do not automatically update the underlying data bases. For example, changing a name in one place does not automatically change it if it appears elsewhere in the document. Automatic changes can only be achieved by making the change in the appropriate Q&A form. These forms are available by clicking on the "variables" drop-down in the menu bar. The Q&A forms appearing in this menu item vary with the type of document being used.

    Saving Documents. You can convert SmartWords documents to another format by using the Save As command. The available word processing format is dictated by the word processor selected when SmartWords is installed.

    Converting a document to another format causes it to lose its dynamic data links. Changes made while using the document in another word processor are not reflected back in SmartWords--neither in the document nor in the SmartWords database containing client and document information. Therefore, SmartWords documents should not be converted to a word processor format unless necessary, and certainly not until the data is correct, complete, and final.


    The Wealth Transfer Planning System is a very useful tool. The options built into the form editor are excellent, but the system does need some operational refinements. First, I found the user interface required a little too much effort. Second, there was no way to print certain memos generated by the system (memos that I wrote could be printed). For example, instructions on how to execute a procedure could not be printed except as a screen dump. Third, it was not immediately apparent how to return to an earlier step. Movement within the documents was not a problem.

    RIA Estate Planning Forms

    and printed with or without data. Appropriate instructions are included. Note, however, this included accessory is not meant to be a full-featured forms preparation system. The user must do all footings and calculations.

    Subscription. A yearly subscription to Wealth Transfer Planning is $1,695. This includes monthly replacement CD-ROMs for primary law, such as the IRC, revenue procedures, revenue rulings, and cases with all updates in place. Wealth Transfer Planning updates are issued periodically. The subscription also includes an interactive tutorial CD-ROM. For more information, or to order Wealth Transfer Planning, call RIA Group at (800) 431-9025,
    or visit RIA Group's website, www.riatax.com.

    System Requirements:

  • 486DX/66 MHz or better, Pentium processor recommended
  • Windows 95
  • 16 MB RAM
  • 50MB hard disk space--non-network version
  • 50MB hard disk space plus 1 MB on each user station--network version
  • CD-ROM drive, quad speed (4X) or better. *

    Paul D. Warner, PhD, LLM, CPA, is the technology editor of The CPA Journal and a professor and chair of the accounting and business law department at Hofstra University.

    Paul D. Warner, PhD, LLM, CPA
    Hofstra University

    L. Murphy Smith, DBA, CPA
    Texas A&M University

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