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Probate & Property

[Note: This column was originally published by the Real Property, Probate and Trust Law Section of the American Bar Association in Probate & Property, Vol. 11, No. 6 (November/December 1997).]

Windows Software for Estates and Trusts

By Daniel B. Evans, Technology-Probate Editor

There is an old joke in the software industry that God was able to create the world in only six days because He did not have to worry about an installed base. The point is that creating a new software program from scratch is often easier than updating an old one. Users have become comfortable with the way the program works and often do not want it to change, even if the change looks like an improvement.

More importantly, established users often have large amounts of data saved in files created by the old software program. They want the new program to be "backwards compatible" so that all of their old files can be transferred easily to the new program. Writing new software that can use or convert data from old programs greatly complicates the programming process.

These are some of the reasons why the transition from DOS to Windows has not happened as quickly as many people expected, particularly among lawyers. Many firms are still running straight DOS. The transition may be slower among estate and trust lawyers than among lawyers generally for the paradoxical reason that estate and trust lawyers were among the first to embrace computerization. They saw the advantages of generating court accountings, performing estate tax calculations and preparing tax returns, all by computer. Having bought DOS software, these practitioners are reluctant to buy new Windows software while the DOS software is still working. Once leaders in adopting new technology, many trust and estates lawyers now are followers in this area.

Why Switch?

Despite their natural inertia, firms are finally switching from DOS to Windows for their estate and trust needs. The rate of change is accelerating, probably for the following reasons:

Law firms' new computers have come with Windows pre-installed so it has been easier (and cheaper) to use the computers with the installed Windows software than to buy other software or try re-installing old software. Changes in tax laws and court rules frequently require law firms to buy new software to keep up with the changes anyway, so the question facing many firms has not been whether to buy new software but whether to buy new DOS software or new Windows software.

The mouse itself, along with the graphical user interface, can be an aid to learning new software after lawyers and staff get used to the common conventions of Windows software and feel comfortable using a mouse.


The world of Windows is not without its costs and inconveniences. Most Windows programs are bigger and slower than the DOS programs they replace. "Program bloat" is partially a result of the demands of a graphical environment and partially a result of the fact that programs do not need to be small when one has an almost unlimited amount of memory available to run them. There also are incompatibilities between Windows programs and the various versions of Windows. Many programs written for Windows 3.1 do not run well under Windows 95 and will not run at all under Windows NT. A program written specifically for Windows NT will not run under Windows 95. The situation will become even more complicated when Microsoft re- leases the successor to Windows 95, Windows 98, because there may be incompatibilities between Windows 98 and both Windows 95 and Windows NT.


Although Windows software has its advantages, there can be problems in adopting Windows software for a particular law office and practice, and there may be new problems in the future as Microsoft continues to dictate a course for the computer industry that is not strong on backwards compatibility.

Despite these problems, Windows has become "the only game in town" and using some kind of Windows software is both judicious and inevitable. If you are still in the process of migrating to Windows, or are looking to change your estate and trust software to Windows versions, the best that you can do as a careful shopper is try to find out if the software you are buying will run on the version of Windows you are currently running, and make sure that you can return software that doesn't work for you. Technology_Probate Editor: Daniel B. Evans, P.O. Box 27370, Philadelphia, PA 19118 (215) 233-0988, e-mail

Windows-based Software
The following is a list of some Windows-based software programs that are currently available for the most common estate planning or administration tasks.

Actuarial Factors/ Charitable Planning

Estate Planning Tools for Windows
Brentmark Software
Suite 280, 120 University Park Dr.
Winter Park, FL 32792-4427
(407) 679-6555; (800) 879-6665
Fax: (407) 679-1131

Number Cruncher for Windows
Leimberg & LeClair, Inc.
P.O. Box 1332
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(610) 527-5216/Fax: (610) 527-5226

Tiger Tables for Windows
TSP Software
Suite 700, 911 Washington Ave.
St. Louis, MO 63101
(314) 231-2800/Fax: (314) 436-8400

Estate Drafting Drafting Wills and Trust Agreements on CAPS
West Group
610 Opperman Drive
Egan, MN 55164
(800) 323-1336

Estate Planning Calculations/ Graphics Estate Planning Concepts
Clark Boardman Callaghan
375 Hudson St.
New York, NY 10014
(800) 890-5558

Leimberg's Estate Planning
Leimberg & LeClair, Inc.
P.O. Box 1332
Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
(610) 527-5216/Fax: (610) 527-5226

OSI Software
3914 Little Cottonwood Lane
Sandy, UT 84092
(801) 944-6250; (800) 432-6947
Fax: (801) 944-6251

ViewPlan, Inc.
P.O. Box 80788
San Diego, CA 92138-0788
(800) 826-2127

Fiduciary Accounting
None known.

Form 706/709 Preparation
BNA 706 Preparer for Windows;
BNA 709 Preparer for Windows
BNA Software
1231 25th Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20037
(202) 452-4435; (800) 372-1033
Fax: (202) 452-7547

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Evans Law Office
Daniel B. Evans, Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 27370
Philadelphia, PA 19118
Telephone: (866) 348-4250