The Complete Executor's Guidebook

ISBN: 9781572486041

By: Benjamin Berkley

Published: 06/01/2007

A step-by-step guide to settling a loved one’s estate.

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A step-by-step guide to settling a loved one’s estate. Being an executor or personal representative is no easy task. For many, the job comes at a time of high emotion and is something that has never been done before. The Complete Executor's Guidebook is here to help ease this troubling time and make this overwhelming task manageable. It gives you everything you need to navigate through all the paperwork and responsibility that comes with this role. It takes you step-by-step though all of the legal and financial matters that must be completed and provides you with a plan to timely settle an estate. With it you will feel confident that you are doing everything you need to do, such as: - Preparing for your role as an executor or trustee - Making claims for insurance, social security and other benefits - Understanding the will or trust provisions - Handling situations when documents are missing - Going to court - Dealing with taxes - Finding your state's laws - Working with lawyers, accountants, insurance agents and others

About the Author

Benjamin H. Berkley Attorney at Law

Benjamin Berkley has practiced law for more than twenty-eight years, specializing in estate planning and estate administration. He earned his law degree from Western State University. In addition to being admitted to the State Bar of California and the United States Supreme Court, he is also licensed by the State of California and the Department of Justice as a private fiduciary for court appointments as a conservator and trustee of estates. Mr. Berkley also serves as a panel referral attorney for the nation’s largest prepaid legal programs, including ARAG Legal, Hyatt Legal, and GE Consumer Signature Legal. He is a network attorney for AARP members. He regularly conducts seminars on estate planning and has become an advocate for senior rights. Ben lives with his wife and two children in southern California.


Table of Contents

Frequently Asked Questions

Part One: Preplanning and Transition
Chapter 1: Plain English Definitions
Wills and Probate

Chapter 2: Making Sure the Shoe Fits
Accepting or Declining the Appointment
Anticipating Demands of the Heirs
Stepping Up in a Time of Need
Think About it
Resigning After Accepting the Appointment

Chapter 3: Preplanning: A Conversation with Your Loved One
The Testator’s Last Wishes for Funeral and Final Interment
Storage of the Documents
The Consequences of Items being Kept in a Safe-Deposit Box
The Reluctant Testator
Potential Future Issues that could Affect the Estate

Chapter 4: When Death is Imminent
Providing Assistance in Making Legal Decisions
Petition for Conservatorship
Alternative Housing Options
Hospice Care

Chapter 5: At the Time of Passing: Your First Steps
Making Funeral Arrangements
Managing the Estranged Spouse
Funeral Expenses
If Death Occurs at Home
Anatomical Gifts
Placement of Children with the Guardian
Taking Care of Pets
If the Decedent Lived Alone
Help Someone Else and Recycle

Chapter 6: At the Time of Passing: Managing the Survivors
Providing Emotional Support
Managing Sibling Rivalry
Show Me the Money: Managing the Greedy and Impatient Heirs
Managing the Heirs’ Expectations
Managing the “Entitlement Disease” Factor
A Few More Words about the Grubby, Greedy Heirs
Dealing with Estranged Heirs
Do Not Take Sides
Be the Peacekeeper to Your Family
Confront Resentment Head-on
Respect the Grieving Process and Religious Customs

Chapter 7: At the Time of Passing: Notification and Getting Organized
Locating the Will and Other Estate Planning Documents
Reading of the Will
Obtaining Death Certificates
Solving Immediate Problems

Part Two: Estate Administration
Chapter 8: Locating, Organizing, Itemizing, and Categorizing the Assets and Liabilities of an Estate
Locating the Assets of an Estate
Examine the Contents of a Safe-Deposit Box
Discovery of Embarrassing Assets
Discovering Stocks and Bonds
Review Correspondence from Attorneys and Other Professionals
Wrongful Death Claims
Review Past Tax Returns
Review Correspondence from Real Estate and Title Insurance Companies
Itemizing the Assets
Categorizing the Assets and Liabilities
When a Safe-Deposit Box is Jointly Owned

Chapter 9: Navigating the Sea of Probate
Understanding the Need for a Formal Probate
Getting Started: Initiating a Probate Action
Probate Time Line
Step One: Filing the Petition for Probate
The Role of an Attorney
Where to File the Petition
Ancillary Probate
Step Two: Producing the Original Will
Step Three: Giving Notice
Step Four: The Initial Probate Hearing
Proving the Validity of the Will
Handwritten Wills
If the Maker of the Will was Physically Unable to Sign His or Her Name
When There are Two or More Wills
Whether You Should be Appointed
The Requirements of a Surety Bond
Prior to the Hearing
Will Contests

Chapter 10: Formal Probate: The Next Steps
Acknowledgment of Responsibilities
Duties and Liabilities of Personal Representative
Overview of the Responsibilities of a Representative
Bank Accounts
Form SS-4
Inventorying the Estate
Formal Notification to Creditors
Collecting Debts Owed to the Estate
Filing the Accounting and Closing the Estate
Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries

Chapter 11: When There is No Will
Understanding the Need for Intestate Succession
Untangling the Legalese into English
Determining Who the Children Are
Other Heirs at Law

Chapter 12: Interpreting and Enforcing the Language of the Will
Interpreting Who Receives Specific Gifts
Interpreting Conditional Gifts
Interpreting When a Child is No Longer a Minor
Interpreting Who is the Child of the Decedent
Interpreting Gifts for Pets
Interpreting Assets Left to a Group
When a Will Makes Illegal Provisions
When the Maker of the Will Tries to Control from the Grave
When a Will’s Provisions are Illogical
When a Will Leaves Property that No Longer Exists
When the Will Leaves Non-Probate Assets
When a Will Leaves Property to a Former Spouse
When a Will Excludes a Spouse’s Legal Rights
When the Will Leaves Property to a Testamentary Trust
When the Will Leaves Property to a Pourover Trust

Chapter 13: When a Formal Probate is Not Required
Transfer of Assets by Affidavit
Sample Affidavit for Collection of Personal Property
Sample Affidavit of Domicile
Summary or Informal Probate

Chapter 14: Managing the Assets and Liabilities of an Estate -
Managing Assets that Diminish in Value
Managing Real Estate
Evicting a Tenant
Managing Personal Property
Managing Investments
Managing an Ongoing Business
Managing Debts of the Estate
Creditor Claims

Chapter 15: Obtaining Benefits for the Estate
Life Insurance and Annuities
Mortgage Insurance
Widow’s Social Security Benefits
Widow’s Social Security Disability Benefits
Employment Retirement Plan Benefits
Bank Account Benefits that are Payable on Death
Savings Bond Benefits
Redeeming Traveler’s Checks
Redeeming Unused Airplane Tickets and Prepaid Travel

Chapter 16: Personal and Estate Taxes
Federal and State Personal Tax Returns
Federal and State Estate Tax Returns
Gift Tax Returns

Chapter 17: Your Right to Compensation
Compensation for Administering an Estate
When there are No Available Assets to Pay Compensation
Waiving Compensation
Petitioning for Extraordinary Fees
Importance of Keeping Accurate Records

Chapter 18: Your Role as an Advisor
Payable on Death Bank Accounts
Retirement Accounts
Transfer on Death Registration of Securities
Transfer on Death Registration for Vehicles
Joint Tenancy
Revocable Living Trusts
Life Insurance
Creating and Revising Wills and Other Documents for Surviving Spouses
Sample Affidavit—Death of Joint Tenant
Sample Affidavit—Surviving Spouse Succeeding to Title to Community Property
Revising the Named Guardian
Continued Emotional Support
Daily Living Assistance

Chapter 19: Revocable Trusts and Trust Management
Translating Trust Terminology into English
A/B Bypass Trusts
The Role of the Trustee
When the Trust Names Cotrustees
Declining Your Appointment as Trustee
Comparison of Trustee and Executor
Step-by-Step Guideline for Trustees
Investing the Assets of the Trust
Compensation for Managing a Trust
Seeking Professional Advice

Chapter 20: Do I Need an Attorney?
Attorney Fees
Preparing for Your Appointment
Do’s and Don’ts for Your First Meeting with the Attorney
Finding a Probate Attorney

Chapter 21: Words of Thanks

Appendix A: Representative’s Checklist
Appendix B: Notification
Appendix C: State-by-State Summary of Probate Laws
Appendix D: Unclaimed Property
Appendix E: Sample Forms
Appendix F: Blank Forms
Appendix G: Resources
About the Author


Excerpt from the Introduction of The Complete Executor's Guidebook

The Complete Executor's Guidebook is an instructional guide for anyone administering and managing an estate


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Format: Paperback

Length: 9 in
Width: 7 in
Weight: 20.48 oz
Page Count: 336 pages


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