My mother passed away recently here in Michigan, and had most of her assets titled to a trust that became active upon her death. We did find one item, an annuity without a living beneficiary, that will require us to file for probate, so we are planning to do that. In addition, she had some investment style gold coins (>50K) that could be passed on to her heirs informally, or should we list these on the probate inventory ? One goal I think would be to set an inherited basis value for the coins (we do not have records of their original purchase). The probate inventory path will incur some cost as there is a fee related to the total, but it is not severe. For the basis, would it be sufficient to use the gold spot price on the day of her death, or is a formal appraisal required ?
You need to consult with a probate attorney in your area. No attorney here would or could advise you to pass assets on "informally" if they are probate assets. The estate representative is obligated by law to fully and truthfully report all probate assets, especially those that are substantial such as these coins. When dealing with coins we usually obtain a certified appraisal from someone with numismatic experience (experience with real coins, not Franklin Mint stuff). The value is the market value based on that appraisal as of the date of death. As to whether to use the gold price or appraisal price I think is a question for the appraiser.
This is not legal advice nor intended to create an attorney-client relationship. The information provided here is informational in nature only. This attorney may not be licensed in the jurisdiction which you have a question about so the answer could be only general in nature. Visit Steve Zelinger's website: http://www.stevenzelinger.com/
Attorney Zelinger has given his usual stellar advice. I would list the coins on the inventory. As for the value, this would depend on whether or not Midland requires verification of the value or not. Some counties are very strict in terms of verifying values and some counties do not do this, at all. I have not had a case in Midland for years, so I do not know their policy, in this regard.
You can contact the court and ask them: http://www.co.midland.mi.us/departments/home.php?id=23
If the court does not verify values, then I would see if you can determine a reasonable value on the internet. If it is your intent to liquidate the coins, you may want to get them appraised, anyway. If you are going to keep them and distribute them in kind to the beneficiaries, you will want to be careful how this is done, to avoid any potential claims of self-dealing.
It would also be a good idea to have an attorney assist you with the probate proceeding. The attorney may know an appraiser who can handle the coins and remove any hassle for you, in this regard.
*** LEGAL DISCLAIMER I am licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan and have offices in Wayne and Ingham Counties. My practice is focused in the areas of estate planning and probate administration. I am ethically required to state that the above answer does not create an attorney/client relationship. These responses should be considered general legal education and are intended to provide general information about the question asked. Frequently, the question does not include important facts that, if known, could significantly change the answer. Information provided on this site should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed attorney that practices in your state. The law changes frequently and varies from state to state. If I refer to your state's laws, you should not rely on what I say; I just did a quick Internet search and found something that looked relevant that I hoped you would find helpful. You should verify and confirm any information provided with an attorney licensed in your state.
You seem knowledgeable that the primary reason to list them in the estate inventory is TAXES.. if you can show that you legally inherited them the "basis" is the value of the date of death..
If you do not list the coins and they were purchased years ago.. your basis is not formally
"stepped up" to the value at the date of death and you may have to pay taxes on 100% of the sale price...
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