Other Facts about Estate Planning

You also should be aware of the other procedures involved in estate settlement. Here’s a quick review of some of them. Your attorney, as well as the organizations mentioned, can provide more details.

Transferring property

When thinking about transferring your property, what probably first comes to mind are large assets, such as stock, real estate, and business interests. But you also need to consider more basic assets:

Safe deposit box contents:
  • In most states, once the bank learns of the death, it will open the box only in the presence of the estate’s executor or personal representative.
Savings bonds:
  • The surviving spouse can immediately cash in jointly owned E bonds. H and E bonds registered in the deceased’s name but payable on death to the surviving spouse must be sent to the Federal Reserve to be cashed.

Receiving benefits

The surviving spouse or other beneficiaries may be eligible for the following:

Social Security benefits.
  • For the surviving spouse to qualify, generally he or she must be age 60 or older (but as young as age 50 if disabled) or care for a child of the deceased spouse who is under age 16 (or disabled). Surviving minor children and certain other dependents may also be eligible for benefits.
Employee benefits.
  • The deceased may have insurance, back pay, unused vacation pay, and pension funds the surviving spouse or beneficiaries are entitled to. The employer will have the specifics.
Insurance they may not know about. Many organizations provide life insurance as part of their membership fee. They should be able to provide information.