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A Better Partnership


Nov 2008
November 26, 2008

Estate Planning Focus - Fall 2008

Editor's Note - We're No. 1!

It's nice to be recognized for a job well done.

This year's rankings for The Best Lawyers in America do just that for the Trusts and Estates group at Warner Norcross & Judd.

The annual listing is a peer-rated review of attorneys and practices across the country. And according to our peers, Warner has the top-rated Trusts and Estates practice group in Michigan. We also rank at the top for Nonprofit/Charities Law.

Individually, Warner has seven members of the Trusts and Estates group who have earned "Best Lawyers" status. These include the group's chair, Susan Gell Meyers, as well as Carl Dufendach, Mark Harder, Jeff Power, Jay Smith, Jim Spica and Mike Van Haren. Mike and Jeff also are listed among the Best Lawyers in Nonprofit/Charities Law.

We're proud of our status as Michigan's No. 1 Trusts and Estates practice, as well as the individual accolades afforded some of our attorneys.

But we're even happier when we put that accumulated knowledge to work for our clients. It's exciting to uncover little-known ways to retain or increase wealth for our clients.

Sometimes a peek behind the headlines reveals interesting pieces of news when it comes to wealth management.

While the hoopla amid the $700 billion bailout plan to fortify the nation's financial markets garnered most of the headlines, there was plenty more packed into the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008 that President Bush signed in October. The story on Page 5 in today's edition examines some of the tax-savings that were tucked into the measure, along with what the exemption levels will be for alternative minimum taxable income and how taxpayers can use nonrefundable personal credits to offset both regular tax and the AMT in 2008.

The Act also contains good news for IRA owners making qualified charitable distributions.

More good news on the wealth management front:  the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. bumped its insurance coverage for non-IRA accounts to $250,000 from $100,000. That's a pretty significant bump that, on the surface, seems self-explanatory.

A story on Page 1 in today's edition, however, examines how that FDIC increase can be put to use and specifically what is and isn’t covered by this measure.

In the wealth management arena, there’s always more than meets the eye. That's why we enjoy bringing newsletters such as this one to the attention of our clients.

The Editors

Members In The News

Members of the Trusts and Estates group are assuming leadership positions within the industry.

Mark Harder, a partner in the Holland office, has been elected treasurer of the Michigan State Bar's Probate and Estate Planning Section. He will serve a one-year term as treasurer of that section and will continue to serve as chair of the Michigan Trust Code Committee.

Mark also is a member of the State Laws Committee of the American College of Trust and Estate Council, where he is a fellow.

Ann Liefer, an associate in the Grand Rapids office, and Jennifer Remondino, an associate in the Holland office, recently completed a certification program in the areas of probate and estate planning. They received their certification from the Institute of Continuing Legal Education and the Probate & Estate Planning Section of the State Bar of Michigan. Certification demonstrates their in-depth study of estate planning and administration, including estate tax returns, post-death tax plans, trusts, contested proceedings and other areas.

Leslie Miller, a paralegal in the Grand Rapids office, recently became an associate member of the Trust Estate and Gift Tax Committee of the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants. Leslie has been with Warner for 15 years.

I Was Wondering

Our son, who lives in Michigan, has been granted Power of Attorney for us should we ever need it. My wife and I are planning to move to Florida in January. Is there anything we need to do before then?

Many aspects of Powers of Attorney are governed by state law. Generally, the state in which you live at the time you sign the Power of Attorney will govern the powers and actions of your son under that document. A Power of Attorney that is valid when you sign it will remain valid even if you change your state of residence. Now, however, might be a good time to update your Power of Attorney. Today, most states permit a "durable" Power of Attorney that remains valid once signed until you die or revoke the document. However, you should periodically meet with your lawyer to revisit a Power of Attorney and consider whether your choice of agent still meets your needs and learn whether developments in state law affect your Power of Attorney.

Changing your residence is an important reason to have all of your estate planning documents reviewed. If you are moving to Florida, we have estate planning attorneys licensed and experienced in Florida law.

I am a retired banker and one of my longtime clients, who is single, asked me to be his successor trustee. I am flattered, but what exactly does that involve?

The trustee is responsible for seeing that all of the decedent's affairs are wrapped up in a timely manner. Some of those duties may include: making the funeral or memorial service arrangements; paying the decedent's final bills and administration expenses; making a preliminary list of the assets and their estimated values; ensure all assets are insured or otherwise protected; meet with an attorney to review the trust, will, or other directions for distributing the estate; collecting all death benefits (Social Security, life insurance, retirement plans); pay the decedent's income taxes and/or federal estate taxes; make a final accounting of all the activities you performed for the beneficiaries, then divide the cash and other property and distribute it to the beneficiaries, unless the terms of the will or trust require the assets to be held in trust. Be careful before you agree to your former client's request. You may be able to do much of this yourself, but an attorney, corporate trustee and/or accountant can give you valuable guidance and assistance.

'I Was Wondering' gives readers an opportunity to ask questions of our T&E attorneys. Not all questions will be answered publicly. To submit a question, please send it by e-mail to Lori Tuttle at


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