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On April 30, 2014, The National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) granted accreditation to the NALA Certified Paralegal program for demonstrating compliance with the NCCA Standards for the Accreditation of Certification Programs. NCCA is the accrediting body of the Institute for Credentialing Excellence. The NCCA Standards were created to ensure certification programs adhere to modern standards of practice for the certification industry.  The NALA Certified Paralegal program joins an elite group of more than 120 organizations representing over 270 certification programs that have received and maintained NCCA accreditation. More information on the NCCA is available online at www.credentialingexcellence.org/NCCA

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Estate Planning
This page summarizes the Estate Planning Advanced Paralegal Certification program. Use the links below to review the items, register or login to the course. If you have not already registered as a user on the NALA APC web site, click "Register for the Course." If you have already registered for this or another APC course, you have already created a user account, click "Login."

Paralegals who are not seeking the Advanced Paralegal Certification credential are welcome to register and take any APC courses as advanced continuing education programs. CLE credit is available upon completion of the courses from NALA for Certified Paralegals, and from various state CLE programs.

Prerequisite Knowledge Learning Contract Register for the course
Fee: $250 Members; $300 Non Members

Course Description

An estate is made up of all the property a person owns, or has an ownership interest in. Estate planning is a multi-faceted process designed to make arrangements for the accumulation and preservation of wealth during a person’s life, and disposition of the property after the person’s incapacity or death. A comprehensive estate plan can ensure a client’s ability to:

  • preserve assets, maximize wealth, and achieve financial security;
  • arrange for distribution of property to family and other beneficiaries, protect beneficiaries from divorce, creditors, and themselves, and provide for family members with special needs;
  • minimize taxes and administrative costs, avoid probate, and provide funds for paying costs that cannot be avoided;
  • name fiduciaries in positions of responsibility — such as personal representatives, attorneys-in-fact, conservators, trustees, and guardians — in the event of death or disability;
  • implement and facilitate charitable goals during and after life; and
  • provide transfer of business interests on retirement, disability, or death.
In this course, you’ll learn all the essential concepts, principles, instruments, forms, and tools for accomplishing the client’s purposes and goals. You’ll start with the common core documents of estate planning: wills, trusts, powers of attorney, conservatorships, and others. You’ll learn about gifting strategies and types of trusts. You’ll research current state and federal law and tax forms, issues, and trends. You’ll apply what you’ve learned to fact- based scenarios, case studies, and test questions.

By the way, the tests are designed for learning: we reinforce correct issue spotting and resolution and we guide you to further consideration of the issues and point you to more study for any incorrect answers.
The course is organized into 10 modules as follows:  

Reasons for Estate Planning
Wills and Codicils
Trusts in General
Purposes for Creating Trusts
Specific Types of Trusts
Collateral Estate Planning Documents
Tax Considerations
Gifting Strategies 
Tax Planning with Trusts and Other Techniques
Valuation Issues in Gifting

Click here  to open "Role of the Paralegal" in this practice area. This is the basis for this advanced course. 

Prerequisite Knowledge

This course is designed for paralegals that are knowledgeable or experienced in estate planning.  This includes:

U.S. and State Constitutions
State and Federal Legislation
Practice & Procedure Forms
Internet Research
Federal and State Civil Procedure
Statutes of Limitations
Basic Wills and Trusts
Basic Property
Basic Probate
Basic Income Tax

Course Modules

The Advanced Paralegal Certification course on Estate Planning consists of successful completion of 10 modules of text, assessments, and assignments. The modules and their objectives are as follows:

1. Reasons for Estate Planning
Module 1 explains the reasons and purposes of estate planning. We discuss preservation of assets for future generations, disposition of assets, minimization of taxes, maximizing wealth transfer, financial and tax planning, professional asset management, appointment of fiduciaries, protection of assets and beneficiaries from creditors, and charitable and philanthropic goals. We conclude with a discussion of practical and ethical issues in representing a married couple in estate planning.
2. Wills and Codicils 
We start with the purposes of creating a will and codicil. Topics include the four basic requirements for a valid will: legal capacity, testamentary capacity, testamentary intent, and statutory formalities; types of wills — attested, conditional, foreign, holographic, international, nuncupative, reciprocal, self-proving, joint, pour-over, and “living;” and elements of a will -- the introduction, general, specific, and contingent bequests, separate writings, special clauses. We also cover the residuary estate, definitions, appointment of fiduciaries, debts, taxes, and expenses, and administrative, minors, guardianship, and powers provisions; codicils; revocation of wills, and challenges to wills.
3. Trusts in General
Here we begin to build a foundation for the next two modules as we present an overview of various types of trusts used in estate planning. We start with the basic elements of trusts — settlors, trustees, beneficiaries, and trust corpus; dispositive and administrative provisions. We move on to discuss general categories of trusts — revocable, irrevocable, testamentary, and inter vivos and forms of trust — public and private, express and implied, constructive and resulting. Finally, we look at the duration of trusts, including life estate trusts, specified period trusts, staged distribution trusts, and the rule against perpetuities.
4. Purposes for Creating Trusts
In Module 4, we study the estate planning purposes for creating and maintaining trusts. We’ll cover the primary purposes and benefits of a living trust, including domiciliary and ancillary probate avoidance, shielding assets from claims of creditors, cost of probate v. trust administration, confidentiality, avoiding guardian or conservator appointment, prenuptial and divorce planning, clarity for blended families, and protection from disgruntled family members. We’ll study the purposes and benefits of irrevocable trusts — providing funds for family support and education, business succession planning, spendthrift and related protection, provision for tax savings, and incentive or behavior modification.
5. Specific Types of Trusts
Module 5 examines specific types of trusts commonly used in estate planning. We start with the credit shelter or family trust, which until recently was a primary method for married couples to minimize federal estate taxes on their combined estates. We carefully consider and work examples using:

Credit shelter or family trusts,
Qualified Terminable Interest Property (QTIP) trusts,
General Power of Appointment trusts,
Qualified Domestic Trust (QDOT),
Generation-Skipping Transfer (GST) trusts,
Sprinkle/spray trusts,
Spendthrift trusts,
Special needs trusts,
Special trusts for holding shares in S corporations, including the Qualified Subchapter S Trust (QSST) and the Electing Small Business Trust (ESBT),
Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust (ILIT),
Grantor Retained Interest Trusts (GRITs), including the Grantor
Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT) and the Grantor Retained Unitrust
Qualified Personal Residence Trust (QPRT), and
Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT), Charitable Remainder Annuity Trust
(CRAT), Charitable Remainder Unitrust (CRUT), Charitable Lead
Annuity Trust (CLAT), and Charitable Lead Unitrust (CLUT)
6. Collateral Estate Planning Documents
Estate planning instruments that have the most significant impact on the client during his or her life, and which affect the quality and length of the client’s life include: non-durable and durable powers of attorney under the Uniform Durable Power of Attorney Act (UDPAA) and the Uniform Power of Attorney Act (UPOAA); durable healthcare powers of attorney (HC-DPOAs); HIPAA Personal Representative Designations, including HIPAA release or authority instruments, and HIPAA Personal Representatives; healthcare surrogate appointments; living wills; anatomical gifts; disposition of remains, funeral and interment instructions; nomination of preneed guardian
of the person; and healthcare combination documents. This module emphasizes that the myriad documents involved in this practice area are not merely paper to be shuffled; the client has put trust in the estate plan to represent the client’s faith and lifework. You’ll gain valuable experience working with scenarios that include these documents.
7. Tax Considerations
Estate, gift, income, and generation-skipping transfer taxes are critical to the plan. The module begins with a general discussion of tax considerations in estate planning, taxes to plan for, and current federal law. The module continues with federal estate tax, including taxable transfers, the lifetime exclusion, the unified gift/estate tax credit, and portability of a spouse’s unused lifetime exclusion; federal gift tax, including taxable transfers, types of gifts, annual and lifetime exclusions, non-taxable gifts, and the last deceased spouse rule; federal generation-skipping transfer (GST) tax, including the purpose of the tax, skip persons, types of GSTs, exemptions,and portability; income tax, including estate income, income tax treatment of gifts, and insurance policies. We wrap up with a discussion and problems that include practice calculating estate taxes, including the gross estate, deductions, and estate tax returns; and minimizing taxes, including reducing the taxable estate, transfer of income-producing property, asset freezing, and funding payment of tax.
8. Gifting Strategies
Gifting strategies are useful in distributing wealth and minimizing taxes. We’ll see how these techniques work: the unlimited marital exclusion, gift splitting between spouses, and exclusions for non-citizen spouses; income shifting and “kiddie taxes;” unlimited transfers for qualified educational and medical expenses; charitable gifts, including gift and estate tax exclusions, qualifying organizations, and income tax deductions; gifts of present and future interests, and qualifying gifts to minors; and discounts for gifts of partial interests, remainder interests, and qualified conservation contributions.
9. Tax Planning with Trusts and Other Techniques 
Planning techniques for eliminating or minimizing estate and gift taxes is this module’s main thrust. We’ll expand our knowledge of QRPTs, GRITs, GRATs, GRUTs, ILITs, and GST trusts. And we’ll learn more techniques, such as Family Limited Partnerships (FLPs), Intentionally Defective Grantor Trusts (IDGTs), and private annuity trusts, which allow more options and opportunities for clients.
10. Validation Issues in Gifting 
In this final module, we’ll consider issues faced in estate planning when it comes to assessing value of gifts for tax purposes. These issues include: valuation factors, such as reporting requirements, fair market value, date of transfer, and tax bases; valuation of tangible and real property, including appraisals and partial gifts; valuation of intangible assets, including intellectual property, fluctuations in value, and accounts; valuation of business interests such as corporate shares, partnership interests, and interests in trusts; unusual gifts, including family loans, imputed income, presumptions of gifts in certain circumstances, interest-free loan, and forgiveness of indebtedness; and valuation of remainder interests and annuities, including estimated useful life of property, IRS tables and formulas, and allocations for depreciation, depletion, and estimated useful life. You’ll develop a great appreciation for the IRS Actuarial Tables as you employ them in the short answer test.