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Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide

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Estate Planning Smarts: A Practical, User-Friendly, Action-Oriented Guide, 2nd EditionReview by Pamela Zimba, Oakland, California

Book by Deborah L. Jacobs

Among the many reasons that I like this book, is that it’s a combination of estate planning (EP) information and retirement planning (RP) information. The Table of Contents, which contains the listing of the 19 Chapters in the book, provides a brief description of the contents of each chapter and tells the reader “Read this chapter if …” which directs the reader to a specific chapter if s/he has questioned about a particular aspect of EP or RP. For example, Chapter 7, which covers the preservation of retirement accounts, tells the reader “ … Read this chapter if you have your own retirement account or have inherited one …”

Chapter 7 focuses on maximizing the stretch-out, giving your spouse options, going Roth, if you can, being smart about inheritances, using retirement assets to benefit charity, and aiming for flexibility. As with all chapters in the book it is written for the lay person, but does not sacrifice the technicalities of the law, instead, (as I refer to it) converts complicated legal concepts into language that the lay person can understand.

Each chapter ends with a “To-Do List” focused on the subject matter contained in the chapter. The Chapter 7 list tells the reader that “ … An annual review of your retirement plan can help you spot estate-planning oversights as well as tax-saving opportunities …” and provides a list of issues to consider in reference to one’s overall retirement plan.

Other chapters in the book relating to retirement planning include (1) Understanding the Tax System (Read this chapter even if you think estate taxes won’t affect your heirs), (2) Be Smart About Life Insurance (Read this chapter whether or not you have life insurance), (3) Pay for Health Care and Education (Read this chapter if anyone you love could use help with these expenses, now or in the future), (4) Home Base: Factoring in Real Estate (Read this chapter if you own your primary residence or vacation home or might move to a different state), and (5) Given Now, Save Tax Later (Read this chapter if saving taxes is a high priority).

In addition, the book contains a Glossary of terms, which contain user-friendly definitions of complicated legal concepts, such as “annual exclusion,” “applicable exclusion,” “carryover basis,” “exhaustion rule,” and “gift tax exemption” to name only a few of the terms. It also contains a section about “Resources and Further Reading,” and includes information about finding a lawyer, books concerning EP and RP, newsletters and magazines, software, web sites, blogs, and pertinent IRS Publications.

I highly recommend this book to individuals who are considering or are working on their estate plan, or individuals with questions about various retirement planning tools, and or individuals who have questions about taxes. The book is what it advertises a practical, user-friendly, action-oriented guide. The one downside to the book (as I think may exist with most books available on the subject right now) is that it is dealing with the tax laws pre the 2013 changes.

Another interesting aspect of the book for lawyers, accountants, and financial advisers is a section in the back of the book “At Least 10 Ways to Use This Book.” It specifically states that “ … Professionals have relied on Estate Planning Smarts as a business development tool, giving it to clients and prospects. For this purpose, it can be personalized by adding a company logo to the cover and up to 16 pages of customized text …”

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Robert B. Fleming


Robert Fleming is a Fellow of both the American College of Trust and Estate Counsel and the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys. He has been certified as a Specialist in Estate and Trust Law by the State Bar of Arizona‘s Board of Legal Specialization, and he is also a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation. Robert has a long history of involvement in local, state and national organizations. He is most proud of his instrumental involvement in the Special Needs Alliance, the premier national organization for lawyers dealing with special needs trusts and planning.

Robert has two adult children, two young grandchildren and a wife of over fifty years. He is devoted to all of them. He is also very fond of Rosalind Franklin (his office companion corgi), and his homebound cat Muninn. He just likes people, their pets and their stories.

Elizabeth N.R. Friman


Elizabeth Noble Rollings Friman is a principal and licensed fiduciary at Fleming & Curti, PLC. Elizabeth enjoys estate planning and helping families navigate trust and probate administrations. She is passionate about the fiduciary work that she performs as a trustee, personal representative, guardian, and conservator. Elizabeth works with CPAs, financial professionals, case managers, and medical providers to tailor solutions to complex family challenges. Elizabeth is often called upon to serve as a neutral party so that families can avoid protracted legal conflict. Elizabeth relies on the expertise of her team at Fleming & Curti, and as the Firm approaches its third decade, she is proud of the culture of care and consideration that the Firm embodies. Finding workable solutions to sensitive and complex family challenges is something that Elizabeth and the Fleming & Curti team do well.

Amy F. Matheson


Amy Farrell Matheson has worked as an attorney at Fleming & Curti since 2006. A member of the Southern Arizona Estate Planning Council, she is primarily responsible for estate planning and probate matters.

Amy graduated from Wellesley College with a double major in political science and English. She is an honors graduate of Suffolk University Law School and has been admitted to practice in Arizona, Massachusetts, New York, and the District of Columbia.

Prior to joining Fleming & Curti, Amy worked for American Public Television in Boston, and with the international trade group at White & Case, LLP, in Washington, D.C.

Amy’s husband, Tom, is an astronomer at NOIRLab and the Head of Time Domain Services, whose main project is ANTARES. Sadly, this does not involve actual time travel. Amy’s twin daughters are high school students; Finn, her Irish Red and White Setter, remains a puppy at heart.

Famous people's wills

Matthew M. Mansour


Matthew is a law clerk who recently earned his law degree from the University of Arizona James E. Rogers College of Law. His undergraduate degree is in psychology from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Matthew has had a passion for advocacy in the Tucson community since his time as a law student representative in the Workers’ Rights Clinic. He also has worked in both the Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Pima County Public Defender’s Office. He enjoys playing basketball, caring for his cat, and listening to audiobooks narrated by the authors.