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Full Description

Whether you are a surviving spouse, parent, child, or friend you have just been through a traumatic experience, and now must go forward. Kass and Downie will demystify the process of handling an estate and guide you through it as quickly as possible...provide practical tips to maximize your inheritance, save you time and money and help avoid costly mistakes...get you organized and keep you on track...and give you the benefit of their practical insights gleaned through years of experience in the planning and settling of estates of all sizes.

Traditionally, estate administration books have focused solely on the financial aspects of an estate: Gathering the estates, paying the debts, taxes, and expenses, and distributing whatever is left to the beneficiaries. Kass and Downie do all that and much more:

They start the process much earlier, and continue beyond estate administration as such, to deal with concerns of the survivors. The book begins with important issues involved in preparing for the funeral, who to notify of the death and how to notify them, and how not to notify them. It continues with grief support, discussing how to identify whether grief support is needed, and sources for grief support. It concludes with issues facing the survivors, including estate and financial planning for the survivors, and community resources for seniors.

In 23 user-friendly chapters, it deals with these important issues:

  • Gathering important documents: What to look for, where, and the significance of these documents.
  • Who should administer the estate? How to decide if someone should or should not be allowed to take this responsibility, and whether you really want the job.
  • Social Security benefits: What has to be returned to Social Security, what additional benefits are available and how to claim them.
  • Veteran’s benefits: What benefits may be available to a veteran’s survivors, and how to claim them.
  • Life insurance: How to determine what life insurance is in effect, how to find “lost” policies, steps to claim benefits, why you may not want to claim benefits, and other issues relating to life insurance.
  • Inventorying the assets: What has to be included for various purposes, how to value different types of assets, and implications of valuation.
  • Identifying liabilities: Types of liabilities which must be addressed, what to do about them, and how to handle liabilities which are very old.
  • Who shares in the estate? How to determine what goes to whom, under the Will, Trusts, joint ownership, and various types of ownership and beneficiary designations, including various challenges which can be made.
  • Keeping the beneficiaries informed: Practical and legal concerns about keeping beneficiaries informed about what’s in the estate and progress being made to administer it, including tips on how to protect yourself from disgruntled beneficiaries.
  • The probate process: An extensive, step-by-step discussion of the Michigan probate process, for small estates as well as estates which do not qualify for expedited small estate procedures, including specimens of all relevant Michigan Probate Court forms, and a listing of all Michigan Probate Court addresses and telephone numbers.
  • Protecting and preserving estate assets: What has to be done with regard to each type of asset to fulfill your obligation as a fiduciary to protect and preserve estate assets.
  • Dealing with creditors: If all creditors cannot be paid in full, steps can be taken to protect the beneficiaries and the Personal Representative, and these are discussed in detail, with examples.
  • Providing for the family’s cash needs: A full discussion of methods to keep the family afloat, countering the typical horror stories of how families have been adversely affected by the costs and delays of the probate process.
  • Estate taxes and income taxes: A detailed discussion of issues related to estate and income tax, planning opportunities, and deadlines.
  • Should you take fiduciary fees? How to determine if you should take fees for the work you do to settle the estate, considerations in determining a reasonable fee, and tips on how to keep peace in the family if you do take a fee.
  • Transferring assets to the beneficiaries: How to do it and when, depending on the particular type of asset involved.
  • Avoiding loose ends: Final considerations in handling an estate, including ways of memorializing the decedent, and buttoning up matters with the taxing authorities and Probate Court.
  • Financial and estate planning for the survivors, including valuable tips on how to deal with what may be the largest asset an heir may ever receive at one time.
  • General referral sources for estate administration (including addresses, telephone and fax numbers, and web sites), including government agencies, veterans affairs, banks and trust companies, valuation and appraisal services, life insurance search, unclaimed property (escheated or abandoned property), pension benefits search, missing heir search firms, handwriting experts and document examiners, and translation services.
  • Referrals to grief support services.
  • Referrals to various community services providing support to seniors.