Technology--Probate provides information on current technology and microcomputer software of interest in the probate and estate planning areas. The editors of Probate & Property welcome information and suggestions from readers.
New Versions of Old Friends
This column is the first of a two part look at fiduciary accounting programs that have been updated and rewritten for the Windows operating environment. In fact, all of the programs described in this column are 32 bit applications written for Windows 95/98 or Windows NT, and will not run under Windows 3.1.
Fiduciary Accounting System for Trusts & Estates Reporting (FASTER)
The FASTER system is now available in a Windows version that Trust Tax Services of America (TTSOA) markets and supports. The program supports multiple users and is password protected, making it especially well suited to a networked environment.
The Windows environment allows more flexibility in the way data is displayed, so that the user can sort and review transactions that have been entered in a number of different ways. For example, a user can sort cash receipts and disbursements by date (or range of dates), transaction type, dollar amount, asset code and other factors. When the user finds a transaction that needs to be changed, he or she can open a new window in which to edit the information.
New transactions can be typed in, or existing transactions can be copied. When the user must enter a code to select an asset or account for a transaction, the second mouse button (the right button on a right-handed mouse or the left button on a left-handed mouse) brings up a dialog box listing the available choices. A user need not enter descriptions for most receipts and disbursements, because the program generates descriptions automatically from the type of asset and date of transaction.
Unlike most other programs, FASTER can print one or more pages from a longer accounting, even while maintaining the correct page numbering, so that it is not necessary to print an entire 40 page account just to correct a typographical error on page 12. It is also possible to dictate how capital changes or other transactions are grouped (or subtotaled) in the printed account, so that related transactions can be listed together instead of being scattered through a chronological listing.
There is another helpful feature of the printed accounts. When a schedule of receipts or disbursements extends for more than one page, the program subtotals each page and brings a balance forward to the top of the next page. Users can also insert footnotes into accounts to disclose additional information about particular transactions .
The FASTER program automatically shares data with the add-on federal estate tax return program sold by TTSOA, and there is a "gateway" to exchange data with a related fiduciary income tax return program. Valuation of securities can be imported on-line from EstateVal (Estate Valuations & Pricing Systems, Inc.) and Appraise (Evaluation Services, Inc.). The program can also interface with some of the asset management programs that institutional trustees use.
Many people are already familiar with the "checkbook register" style of accounting programs like Quicken and Quickbooks. ProBATE Software has created a similar look and feel for its fiduciary accounting program, ProBATE Plus, that gives it a comfortable familiarity.
When creating new assets, a "wizard" can take the user through the process step-by-step, or the user can jump right to the summary screen and enter all of the information about the asset at once.
When viewing the register for an asset, the user can see a complete list of all transactions recorded to that account and can add receipts and disbursements or edit any of the existing transactions at will. The program also displays a total value for the account and subtotals for income and principal, so the user can see the status of a particular account at a glance.
A major problem in fiduciary accounting is getting the account to balance. ProBATE Plus makes it especially easy to reconcile bank accounts. After clicking on the "Reconcile" button, the user can enter the bank statement balance and then scroll through the register, marking the transactions that should now be cleared. The program automatically tells you how much the cleared balance varies from the statement balance. When you have reconciled the account , the program can print a report showing the
transactions that have cleared.
The program can print checks directly, saving time and effort. In other respects of report printing, ProBATE Plus is less flexible than other programs. It is necessary to select which schedules to prepare and print, even when preparing an account in accordance with the Uniform Fiduciary Accounting Principles. Each schedule numbers the first page as "page one," so a complete accounting with all required schedules will not have pages numbered consecutively from beginning to end.
The ProBATE Plus program can export data to the ProBATE 706 Plus and ProBATE 1041 Plus programs to prepare federal estate tax and fiduciary income tax returns, and there are modules available for state death tax returns and fiduciary income tax returns of 11 states. Valuation of securities can be imported from EstateVal (Estate Valuations & Pricing Systems, Inc.) and Wallace Pricing (Financial Data Service, Inc.).
Zane Fiduciary Accounting System (FAS)
Zane FAS is a new Windows version of an established DOS product. It should be released around the time this column will be published, so this description of the product is based on a development version about to be released for beta testing. The Windows version of the product appeared to be well designed, with a number of interesting new features.
Several of the windows within the program can be "split" to show pairings of accounts and transactions, such as assets and income, assets and capital transactions or beneficiaries and distributions. By highlighting a particular asset, the user can immediately see all of the income associated with that asset. Or the user can switch to the asset/transactions window, highlight an asset and immediately see all of the sales, purchasers, stock splits or other transactions affecting that asset, sorted and filtered in ways that the user selects.
A highlighted income receipt or other transaction can be copied with a single mouse click, and the program will automatically insert a new date, based on the intervals between the preceding receipts.
This means that, if a user has already entered two or three quarterly dividends for a particular stock, each in the same amount, and wants to enter additional dividends in the same amounts each quarter, he or she can add the additional dividends with a series of mouse clicks. The program will automatically calculate and enter the new date for each successive dividend. The
user also has the option of entering transaction descriptions or allowing the program to generate an appropriate description for the transaction type.
The program provides new options for formatting printed accounts. The user can select different font sizes and styles for titles, total, subtotals, column headings and other parts of the report and modify the margins of the report. Many other parts of the program can be customized also, such as user passwords and choices of defaults for data entry. Different options can be applied firm-wide, for particular users or only for particular accounts.
In addition to the standard accounting in the style of the Uniform Fiduciary Accounting Principles, Zane FAS can generate reports specially designed for 15 different states. The data entered in the fiduciary accounting program can also be used to prepare federal estate tax returns and fiduciary income tax returns using Zane 706 and Zane 1041 software, with special modules for some state death tax and income tax returns. Valuation of securities can be imported on-line from Wallace Pricing (Financial Data Service, Inc.), Appraise (Evaluation Services, Inc.) and EstateVal (Estate Valuations & Pricing Systems, Inc.).
Vendor and Price Information
Fiduciary Accounting System for Trusts & Estates Reporting (FASTER)
Trust Tax Services of America, Inc.
P.O. Box 60656
Worcester, MA 01606-0656
Fax: (508) 753-9367
Prices start at $4,200 for a single user license, plus 15% for annual maintenance.
Suite E, 1990 59th Ave.
Greeley, CO 80634
Fax: (970) 330-3238
Price is $695, plus $345 per year for maintenance; a complete package of fiduciary account, 706, 709, 1041 and estate planning software is $1,995/$995.
Zane Fiduciary Accounting System
Zane & Associates, Inc.
130 West White Horse Pike
Berlin, NJ 08009
800-331-2533, Fax: (856) 767-1510 http://www.zanenet.com
Prices start at $995.
A complete listing of software products and services for estate and trust lawyers (originally published as an appendix to my book Wills, Trusts, and Technology) can be found at http://evans-legal.com/dan/wtt-new.html
Technology - Probate Editor: Daniel B. Evans, P.O. Box 27370, Philadelphia, PA 19118.
Probate & Property Magazine is published six times annually and is included in section members' annual dues.