You Forgot About ACTEC
I read with interest the article written by Bruce Fraser on "How To Successfully Select An Estate Planning Attorney" in the July 2005 issue of Financial Advisor magazine. There is at least one glaring omission that should be noted for your readers. There was no mention of the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC), the premier professional organization for estate planning (or, more traditionally, trusts and estates) lawyers. Becoming an ACTEC fellow is similar to a physician's appointment as a fellow of a similar medical professional group such as the American College of Surgeons (as I understand their nomination requirements). You may find the stringent ACTEC nomination requirements on its Web site: www.actec.org/public/Mem-berInfo.asp. Notably, an ACTEC fellow must practice estate-planning law almost exclusively for ten years or more to be considered, and publication to promote the profession is required of nearly all approved/appointed fellows.
My comment is unbiased because I am not an ACTEC fellow, although I aspire to become one in a few years. I am, however, a very active member of the American Bar Association's Section of Real Property, Probate and Trust Law, serving as the "Technology-Probate" editor of our Probate & Property magazine. Therefore, I certainly understand the difficulty in covering topics completely and writing to include as much as possible, while still using words economically.
Jason E. Havens, Attorney/Member
Havens & Miller P.L.L.C.
Bluewater Bay office
Not All Giving Is Tax Driven
Grove and Prince ["The Affluent And The Federal Estate Tax," July 2005] reported that half of their respondents felt that wealthier Americans should bear a larger share of the tax burden by giving more back. Could somebody please tell me to whom these people want to give the money? If they inherited it, "back" would mean giving it to prior generations; if they made it themselves, I'm sure their customers would like lower prices, their employees would like higher compensation and their investors would like a greater return. These are the only true beneficiaries of a successful business, and the only ones who have a right to the fruits of the successful business. And even if prior generations or business stakeholders are disfranchised from their rightful return, why do these wealthy believe that giving it to the government is either efficient or will be better spent than they can do themselves?
That is certainly selling themselves short. Maybe it is a group feeling of guilt. I'm not sympathetic. If they truly are guilty, they should have the free will to distribute the money to whomever they wish. Why should the government be the central repository of the fruits of their guilt? As we learned in the 1980s and perhaps in the late 1990s, charitable giving increases when the giver feels wealthy. In the 1980s, tax rates went down and charitable giving went up. It is nice to know that not all altruism is tax-driven.
Paul M. Scudiere, CPA, CFP
A Little Clarity
Jeff Berends ["Big Savings For Small Employers," July 2005] makes some excellent points about the use of defined benefit plans, particularly for those close to retirement. However his statement about individual 401(k) plans, a defined contribution plan, being limited to 20% of earned income is slightly misleading. Individual 401(k)s allow for a deferral of $14,000 of earnings PLUS 20% of earnings, including the deferral. So a 35- or 40-year-old corporate employee who also is an entrepreneur, with an entrepreneurial profit of $20,000, can add $18,000 to the individual 401(k). That would be a $14,000 salary deferral and $4,000 as the "employer" contribution (20% of $20,000).
With annual fees as low as $100, individual 401(k)s should be considered by every self-employed person.
Bill Mullen CFP, MBA, CSA
Park City, Utah
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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
September 1, 2005
You Forgot About ACTEC