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Table of Contents

Table of Contents & Index

Preface: About this Book


1. Getting Started
How to Use This Book 
If Death is Expected 
If Death Was Unexpected 
You're Not Alone
The Case Studies
Take A Deep Breath 

2. Funeral Arrangements
Preliminary Matters 
Planning the Service
Attending to Family 

3. Notify Key People 

4. Grief Support
Why Grief Support?
Recognizing the Need 
Some First Steps
Grief Support Sources

5. Gather Important Documents
The Documents Tell the Story
Wills and Trusts
Bank Accounts and Securities
Real Estate
Vehicles, Boats, and Aircraft
Contracts and Obligations
Employee and Retirement Benefits
Tax Returns and Social Security
Closely Held Companies
Personal Property
Vital Information 

6. Who Should Administer the Estate?
A Word About Terminology
Is There a Valid Will or Trust?
If There is a Will or Trust
If There is No Will or Trust 
Do You Really Want the Job?
Your Fiduciary Duties
Making the Decision
If You Do Decline
Dealing with Multiple Fiduciaries
Objections to the Appointment
Removing a Fiduciary
Not All Property is Subject to Control by a Fiduciary
Related Appointments: Guardian and Conservator

7. Social Security Benefits
Steps to be Taken Immediately
How Survivors Benefits Accumulate
Who is Eligible for Survivors Benefits?
Widow or Widower
Unmarried Children
Dependent Parents
Special One-Time Death Benefit
Benefits Available for Surviving Divorced Spouses
Applying for Benefits
Survivors Not Already Receiving Social Security
Survivors Already Receiving Benefits
What is the Amount of Benefits?
Are There Maximum Benefits Payable to a Family?
Retirement Benefits for Widows and Widowers
Effect of Survivor's Earnings on Benefits
What if the Survivor Remarries?
Dealing with Social Security
Do You Need Help?

8. Veteran's Benefits
Burial Flag
Reimbursement of Burial Expenses
Federal Benefits 
State Benefits
County Benefits
Survivors' Benefits
Dependency and Indemnity Compensation
DIC Payments to Surviving Spouse
DIC Payments to Parents and Children
Special Allowances
Survivors Benefit Plan (SBP)
How to Apply

9. Life Insurance
What Life Insurance Is In Effect? 
Before Claiming Benefits... 
Claim Life Insurance Benefits
Other Issues Related to Life Insurance

10. Where to Turn for Help
Should You Go It Alone? 
People Who Can Help:
Bookkeeping Services
Financial Advisors: Stockbrokers, Financial Planners, and Investment Advisors 
Banks and Trust Companies 
Appraisers and Valuation Services
Estate Liquidators 
Real Estate Brokers
Specialty Purchasers of Esoteric Items 
Fees in Perspective 
The Team Approach 

11. Inventory the Assets
Taking Stock
Where to Get the Information
Assets in Which the Decedent Had An Interest
The Question of Ownership
Assets to Be Inventoried 
Obtaining Values: Who and How? 
Bank and Savings and Loan Accounts 
Individual Stocks 
Corporate and Government Bonds
Tax-Free Municipal Bonds
Mutual Funds
Household Effects, Personal Property, and Real Estate
Life Insurance
IRAs, Retirement Plans, and Annuities
Business Interests
Valuation and Basis
Implications of Valuation 
Lifetime Gifts 

12. Are There Liabilities?
What Are Liabilities? 
Typical Liabilities
Not So Typical Liabilities 
Valuing Liabilities 
Why Are Liabilities Important?
What if An Obligation Is Very Old?
What Do I Do About Liabilities? 

13. Who Shares in the Estate? 
Situations in Which a Beneficiary May Lose Out
If There is a Will or Trust 
Where There is a Will
Where There is a Trust
If There is No Will or Trust
Where There is No Will
Intestate Share of a Surviving Spouse
Distribution of Balance of Estate or Entire Estate if No Surviving Spouse
Where There is No Trust 
Property Passing Outside the Will or Trust
Jointly Owned Property
Beneficiary Designations
Property Passing Under Someone Else's Will or Trust
Other Issues
Will Contests; Agreements Among Estate Beneficiaries
Reformation of Trusts; Agreements Among Trust Beneficiaries
Locating Beneficiaries

14. Keep the Beneficiaries Informed
Information, Please
Requirements Under Michigan Law
If There is a Probate Estate
If There is a Trust
If There are Charitable Beneficiaries
Put it in Writing
Your First Communication
Progress Reports
Protecting Yourself

15. To Probate or Not to Probate
What is Probate?
When is Probate Necessary?
What is Not Subject to Probate? 
Why the Fuss about Probate? 
The Probate Process
Before You Leap... 
Family Relationships
Closely Held Investment Interests
Decedent with a Living Trust
Probate Procedures
Simplified Probate: "Small" Estates
Petition and Order for Assignment
Affidavit of Decedent's Successor
Summary Administration
Normal Probate Even If the Estate Isn't Large 
Open the Probate Estate
Informal Proceedings
Formal Proceedings
Why Use Formal Proceedings?
Provide Required Notices
Notice to Interested Persons
Notice to Creditors
Notice to Surviving Spouse
Prepare Probate Inventory 
Provide Annual Accounts
File Notices of Continued Administration
Make Distributions to Probate Beneficiaries 
Close the Probate Estate: Four Methods
Method #1: Summary Administration
Method #2: Sworn Statement
Method #3: Petition for Settlement Order
Method #4: Petition for Complete Estate Settlement 
Selected Probate Forms (in numerical order)

16. Protect and Preserve Estate Assets
In Your Hands
What Are Your Duties?
Setting Priorities
Establishing Authority
Assets in Decedent's Name
Assets in Trust Name
Joint Assets
Retirement Accounts
Bank Accounts 
Opening New Accounts
Why Separate Accounts?
Existing Accounts 
Accounts in Decedent's Name
Accounts in Trust Name
Joint Accounts
Certificates of Deposit
Other Financial Assets
Securities in Brokerage Accounts
Securities in Certificate Form 
Jointly Owned Securities
Mutual Funds
IRAs and Other Retirement Accounts
Management of Financial Assets
How Much Cash is to Be Raised?
What is the Extent of Your Investment Authority?
What Types of Investments Make Sense?
What is the Overall Plan?
How Will Assets Be Managed Going Forward? 
Personal Property
Financial Records
Real Estate
Safeguarding Real Estate
Sale of Real Estate
Potentially Contaminated Property
Rental Property
Business Interests

17. Dealing with Creditors
Are There Other Sources of Payment? 
Why is the Claims Process So Important?
Pay Estate Liabilities From Estate Funds
You May Be Able to Deal With Friendly Creditors
Joint Debts; Obligations That Go With the Property
Overview of the Claims Process
Various Types of Claims, With Different Implications
Different Types of Claims Have Different Priorities
Administrative Expenses
Fiduciary Fees
Attorney Fees
Funeral and Burial Expenses
Normal Estate Administration
Special Rules for Small Estates
Statutory Spousal and Family Allowances 
Other Types of Claims 
Claims for Taxes
Secured Debts
Unsecured Debts
Claims Not Due and Contingent or Unliquidated Claims
Notice to Creditors
No Notice Required in Small Estates
Publication of Notice to Creditors
Actual Notice to Known Creditors and Trustee
Presentment of Claims
Certain Types of Claims Do Not Have to be Presented
When Are Claims Barred?
Pre-Death Claims
Post-Death Claims
The Personal Representative May Be Personally Liable
Claims Against the Decedent's Revocable Trust 
Certain Property May Be Exempt From Claims 
Property Passing Under Beneficiary Designation
Joint Property

18. Putting the Horror Stories in Perspective
Providing for the Family's Cash Needs
Joint Accounts
Credit Cards
Life Insurance
Revocable Trust Assets
Obtain Probate Authority 
Estate Property Can Be Sold 
The Need to File An Estate Tax Return Doesn't Freeze the Estate
The Surviving Spouse and Children Generally Won't Be Left Penniless
Homestead Allowance
Family Allowance 
Exempt Property
What Assets Are Used to Satisfy the Allowances?
Spousal Elections
Rights of a Spouse Who Was Omitted in a Premarital Will
Rights of Children Omitted in a Parent's Will

19. The Tax Man Cometh
Death and Taxes
Individual Income Tax Returns
Medical Expense Deduction
U.S. Savings Bond Interest
Fiduciary Income Tax Returns
Adoption of Fiscal Year for Estate
Election to Treat Trust as Part of Estate
Where to Deduct Administration Expenses
Avoiding Taxation at Estate or Trust Level
Plan for the Final Year
Federal Gift Tax Returns
What Should Be Reflected on the Gift Tax Return?
Should Gift Splitting Be Elected?
Should GST Exemption Be Allocated?
Federal Estate Tax Return
Significance of the Federal Estate Tax Return
Is a Return Required to be Filed?
When Must the Tax Be Paid?
When Does the Return Have to Be Filed?
Can an Extension of Time Be Obtained?
Who is Responsible for the Return?
Who Should Prepare the Return?
What Issues Should Be Considered?
Administration Expenses
Alternate Valuation
Equalization of Estates
Exclusion of Certain Retirement Plans
Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GST) Exemption 
Installment Payments of Estate Tax
Medical Expenses Paid After Death
Postpone Tax on Value of Remainder or Reversionary Interest
Qualified Conservation Easement Exclusion
Qualified Domestic Trust
Qualified Family-Owned Business Interest
QTIP Election
Reasonable Cause Extension
Redemption of Stock
Selling Expenses
Special Use Valuation
An Introduction to Form 706
Schedule A-Real Estate
Schedule B-Stocks and Bonds
Schedule C-Mortgages, Notes, and Cash
Schedule D-Insurance on the Decedent's Life
Schedule E-Jointly Owned Property
Schedule F-Other Miscellaneous Property Not Reportable Under 
Any Other Schedule
Schedule G-Transfers During Decedent's Life
Schedule H-Powers of Appointment
Schedule I-Annuities
Schedule J-Funeral Expenses and Expenses Incurred in Administering 
Property Subject to Claims
Schedule K-Debts of the Decedent, and Mortgages and Liens
Schedule L-Net Losses During Administration and Expenses 
Incurred in Administering Property Not Subject to Claims
Schedule M-Bequests, etc., to Surviving Spouse
Schedule O-Charitable, Public, and Similar Gifts and Bequests
Schedule P-Credit for Foreign Death Taxes
Schedule Q-Credit for Tax on Prior Transfers
Schedule R-Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax
Schedule T-Qualified Family-Owned Business Interest Deduction
Schedule U-Qualified Conservation Easement Exclusion
Required Attachments 
Before You Sign
State Estate or Inheritance Tax Returns
Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax (GST) Returns 
What is the GST?
Summary of GST Return Requirements
State Generation-Skipping Transfer Tax
Tax Returns for Household Employees
Business Tax Returns

20. Should You Take Fiduciary Fees?
You Are Entitled to Be Paid
Should You Charge?
Personal Aspects
Charitable Beneficiaries
Tax Implications
What is a Reasonable Fee?

21. Transfer Remaining Assets to Beneficiaries
When and How? It Depends. 
Beneficiaries vs. Fiduciary 
Case Study: Fiduciary Liability After An Audit Adjustment
Partial Distributions
What Do the Beneficiaries Get?
Specific Bequests
General Bequests
Case Study: Fiduciary Liability After Distributing Without 
Considering Tax Allocation
Residuary Bequests
Distributions in Cash or Kind
Distributions Outright or in Trust
Distributions to Minors
How Are the Assets Held?
In the Probate Estate
In a Trust
ITF, TOD, and POD Designations
Joint With Rights of Survivorship
With Named Beneficiary
Types of Property
Other Personal Property
Real Property 
Other Considerations

22. Going Forward: Avoiding Loose Ends
On the Business Side
Obtain All Tax Clearances
Obtain Probate Court Closing Statements
Adjust Basis in Decedent's Assets
Funding of Trusts and Bequests
Trust Administration
Distribute Balance of Funds Held in Escrow
Continuing Investment Management
Decide What to Do About Pending Litigation
How Long Should You Retain the Files?
On the Personal Side
Memorializing the Decedent
Perpetual Care of Grave Site
A Final Word to the Beneficiaries

23. Financial & Estate Planning for the Survivors
Financial Aspects
X-Ray Your Securities
Dump the Losers
Evaluate What's Left, Based on Your Own Goals
Rebalance Your Entire Portfolio
Consider Professional Investment Help
Estate Planning 
Review Your Estate Plan
Coordinate Your Estate Plan
Share Information with Your Family
Plan Beyond Your Will or Trust
Plan for Several Generations
Consider Life Insurance
Start Planning Early
Communicate Your Love and Ethical Values 
Be Charitable

Appendix A: General Resources
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
Translation Services

Appendix B: Michigan Probate Courts

Appendix C: Grief Support Services

Appendix D: Services for Senior Citizens