Oklahoma Estate Planning

Oklahoma Estate Planning is about taking care of your family. The tools we use for Oklahoma Estate Planning are Trusts, Wills, Durable Power of Attorney, Living Wills and many other things.

Why is Oklahoma estate planning important? It may help avoid a nuclear-class family disaster . . .

Why is Oklahoma estate planning important?

I have asked and answered that question hundreds of times both on this blog and in real life. My answer generally is because it protects your family when you are gone. One of the primary protections is disputes over how you would’ve wanted your property to be distributed in your family taking care of.

However, nothing makes the point better than seeing the result of the failure to plan. Let me give you a factual scenario that is rooted in real-life events:

Husband and wife Mary in their late 30s. Both have children from previous relationships. They own their home, another rental property and some lake-front property in another part of the state. They live happily for 35 years until husband passes away. Neither husband nor wife has a will or a trust.

Wife, who is now a widow in her late 60s, is left to administer the estate. She is guided by what she believes her husband wanted. However, the husband’s children from his first relationship don’t see things the same way as the wife. With no Will or Trust to resolve the issues, the wife and the children are left to battle in probate court over the property. Although probate is usually a fairly routine, process, this probate is akin to a full-blown adversarial no holds barred lawsuit. Everyone involved believes they knew what husband wanted but nobody has clear enough proof to prevail quickly. Thousands of dollars in attorney fees and incalculable amounts of emotional damage occur throughout the process.

How could this have been avoided?

The Husband could have expressed his wishes on paper, in a last will and testament.

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning, Oklahoma Probate

5 critical questions to answer when doing Oklahoma estate planning

 

Have you ever wondered what the key questions are when thinking about estate planning for your family?

Generally, you decide what you want to with the things you have and how you want take care of your family after you pass on.  A few years ago I laid out some of the key questions to consider when doing estate planning in this post.

As you think about what you want to do with the things you own when you pass away and to best protect your family, here are several more important points to consider:

  • Who will you designate to act as your personal representative (the person or corporation who will see to the administration of your estate)?
  • If the creation of a trust appears possible, what person, persons, or corporation would you wish to act as trustee?
  • Are there any specific items of real or personal property you would wish to go to particular persons?
  • Who would you wish to take the responsibility for the care of your minor children, if any?
  • At what age or ages would you feel your children should receive substantial assets (not simply support for their health, education and welfare)?

After you think about these questions a bit, it might be worth checking out this post about Oklahoma Estate Planning Tools and this post about simple Oklahoma Estate Planning with a trust.

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning

What do you stand to gain from doing Oklahoma Estate Planning?

Oklahoma Estate Planning

Oklahoma Estate Planning

 

Have you ever wondered what tangible benefit do you get when you do Oklahoma estate planning?

Have you seen one to many pitches for estate planning that simply isn’t clear about what you get out of it?

If the answer is “yes” that is completely understandable.  We (us attorneys) tend to talk in broad, generalized legalese that provides little clue as to the benefits of of the services we are selling.  The goal of this post is to bring it down to a specific set of benefits you can expect if you take the time to do Oklahoma estate planning.  Read on to find out if I succeeded.

Guardian

You can nominate the person or people you desire to be guardian of your minor children.  Although a court is not required to the appoint the person you nominate as guardian, practically, unless the person is disqualified based on a criminal history, the court will nominate who you appoint in writing.  This means you choose who cares for and raises your children.

Protect Assets

You can structure your assets to benefit your children.  If you have minor children and you pass away, the children cannot own your assets directly.  However, through using a trust you can create a structure plan for the assets to be used for the benefit of your children both now and as they grow up.  If you choose to do so, you can eventually direct that your assets go outright and free of any type of trust when your children become adults.

Avoid Probate         

If you create a revocable trust and ensure that all of your large assets are owned by the trust, your family can avoid going through the probate process when you pass away.  The probate process is public and it may cause some delay in how soon your family has access to your assets.

Privacy 

With probate, you file a lawsuit in the County Court in which the deceased person lived and all of the documents filed in the lawsuit are publicly available. Not only are the documents publicly available, but with current technology most of the documents can be accessed from any Internet enabled computer. That means anyone can view the documents that are part of the probate case including the last will and testament which often contains personal details and other private family matters.  The revocable trust is a private document that is not required to be filed with any court or government.  Contrasted with the public probate process, using a revocable trust means that there will be no public access to your private family information and decisions.

Inventory of Assets

In the process of creating the revocable trust and related documents, we will create of an inventory of your assets, broken down by category.  This list reduces the burden on children and other family members to search and gather assets after death.  It also provides the opportunity to gather and index all your financial documents together; that way your family will know what accounts you have and where.

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning

When do I have to file a tax return for a gift I make?

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Gifting into a tax return

While it is not a subject that most people consider often, there are circumstances where a person can make a gift and be required to file a tax return covering the gift and potentially paying tax on the gift. Most people are aware that if you die owning a large enough estate you may have to pay the IRS tax. Many people are also aware that there is an exemption, this year in the amount of $5.3 million, under which you are not required to file a return or pay taxes to the IRS.  What a lot of people don’t think about is that the exemption can be whittled down based on gifts a person makes during their lifetime.

The Annual Exclusion

One way to avoid reducing the lifetime exemption is to take advantage of the annual exclusion.  Each person is entitled to make an unlimited number of gifts each year without any tax consequences provided that the gifts do not exceed the annual exclusion, which in 2014 is $14,000.00. Gifts above the $14,000 number require that the person making the gift file a gift tax return.

What the IRS say about gifts

As the IRS states:

The gift tax is a tax on the transfer of property by one individual to another while receiving nothing, or less than full value, in return. The tax applies whether the donor intends the transfer to be a gift or not.The gift tax applies to the transfer by gift of any property. You make a gift if you give property (including money), or the use of or income from property, without expecting to receive something of at least equal value in return. If you sell something at less than its full value or if you make an interest-free or reduced-interest loan, you may be making a gift.

 The key points

So, here is a summary of how it breaks down:

  • You can gift up to $14,000.00 to just about any person without  return required or tax being owed;
  • You can gift more than $14,000.00 each year to your spouse without a return required or tax being owed;
  • If you gift over $14,000.00 to a person this year, you will need to file a federal gift tax return, IRS Form 709.  The IRS Form 709 is due on or before April 15 of the year following the year that you have made taxable gifts.

 

Remember however that the rules on gift taxes like many other taxes are complicated. You should consult a tax professional before making any final decisions including the decision whether you need to file a return or not

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning, Oklahoma Probate

Do you know the documents that are used to fund your Oklahoma Living Trust?

Have you funded your Oklahoma living trust?

 

You have probably heard that funding your living trust is really important.  I have written about the topic a couple of times on this blog including this post . . . Why do you need to fund your trust or lose it?

But what does “funding” really mean?? Simply put, funding means to legally transfer title to your property from yourself to your living trust.

If you do not fund your trust, you will probably lose most of the value of it.  Below is a diagram I created that identifies some of the basic documents that are used in the trust funding process, with a little bit of explanation about each document.

Snip - docs

 

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning

What is the difference between the Personal Representative and Power of Attorney?

Can you explain the difference in duties required by the person who is the Personal Representative and the person who has the Power of Attorney?  

The primary difference between the Personal Representative (“PR”) and the person appointed under a power of attorney the attorney in fact (the “POA”) is that the PR is administering the estate after the person has passed away and the POA is caring for the person while they are incapacitated, but still living.  POA powers terminate upon death.

Personal Representative

  •  The PR is responsible for securing the Last Will and Testament of the decedent (if there is one) and distributing the decedent’s property according to the terms of the Will. There are usually bills to pay, a tax return to file, personal belongings to gather and other items that need to be addressed. In some cases, a probate proceeding may be necessary.  The PR would be responsible for getting this proceeding filed and completed (with the assistance of an attorney).

Attorney in Fact

  •  The POA receives power to act on behalf of the incapacitated person when the person is determined to be incapacitated under the terms of the power of attorney document.  Typically, this is when a determination is made by at least one medical professional that person can no longer care for themselves.
  • The POA is charged with taking care of the incapacitated person’s financial needs, health and welfare needs and other day-to-day to issues.  For example, a POA may pay bills, communicate with the doctors and make decisions about the incapacitated person is going to be cared for.
  •  Legally, it probably makes no difference whether it is the same person who is POA and PR.  However, practically, many times the other spouse is the person chosen to be both the POA and then the PR.  A person who has acted as the POA and then acts as the PR has a bit of an advantage because they already have experience with the decedent’s estate.

 Is it best that whoever is appointed to act following the death of both spouses be the same person?

Whether it is best to have the same person as POA and PR for both spouses if you are both either incapacitated or pass way simultaneously depends on several things.

  • Is the person you appoint to act as POA capable of caring for two incapacitated people at the same time?
  • Will or could that person also have duties to care for minor children as well as the new guardian? Again, if the same person is PR and there is a simultaneous death of both spouses, the person must be capable of administering both estates.  It can be done, it is simply a question of the competency of the person who is appointed.
  • Practically, where there is one person who both husband and wife are comfortable with, that person is often appointed successor PR of both estates.

 

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Oklahoma Estate Planning, Oklahoma Probate

What is the difference between an Oklahoma Revocable Trust and a Will?

Revocable Trust v. Will

Do you know what the difference is between a Revocable Trust and a Last Will and Testament?

Could you explain the differences to someone else who knew nothing about it?

This is one of the most basic of questions in Oklahoma estate planning and also one of the toughest to explain.

Lets start with the definitions:

A Last Will and Testament is a “legal declaration by which a person, the testator, names one or more persons to manage his/her estate and provides for the transfer of his property at death.

A Trust is a “relationship whereby property (real or personal, tangible or intangible) is held by one party for the benefit of another.

To be a bit more practical, lets look at what each document does:

A Will comes into effect when a person dies. A Trust is in effect from the moment it is signed.

A Will passes property to heirs upon a person’s death. A Trust owns property from the time it is transferred to the trust and may pass that property on at anytime in the future, before or after death.

A Will covers all property that is only in your name when you die but not property held in joint tenancy or in a trust. In contrast, a Trust, covers only property that has been transferred to the trust.

A Will usually goes through probate court. A Trust usually avoids the need to go through probate court.

A Will becomes a public document in probate court. A Trust is usually private never being exposed to public view or court.

A Will generally allows you to name a guardian for your minor children and specify funeral arrangements while a Trust does not allow these activities.

To find a bit more about the differences between the Revocable Trust and Will, check my post on when a Trust is better than a Will.

Note: Even if you choose a revocable trust for your estate planning, you are going to end up with a Will, sort of. In most instances a “pour-over” Will accompanies a Trust to send any property to the Trust which did not make it into the Trust during life.

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning

How does an Oklahoma living trust help you *avoid* probate?

Judge Cullen (LOC)

Most people I come in contact with expect that in Oklahoma estate planning having an Oklahoma living trust will help their heirs avoid probate.

What most people don’t know is how the living trust accomplishes the avoidance of probate.  The answer is below. Continue reading →

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning

Oklahoma Estate Planning: Give the gift of peace of mind this holiday season

3122865907_369750d0ef_z     Give the gift of peace of mind this holiday season.

It is the comment I hear most often after I finish working with people on estate planning:

Having this done gives us peace of mind.

How do you get or give this peace of mind?
Do your estate planning through our Holiday Estate Planning Package because you have so much to gain from doing it. Or simply purchase the Holiday Planning Package for a relative or friend.  You can purchase the Holiday Estate Planning Package now and start on the work in the New Year.  You can also purchase the package now and give it as a gift to a relative or friend.  I have a “gift certificate” for anyone purchasing the Plan as a gift.

The Holiday Estate Planning Package includes all the components you need to plan your estate, taking care of your family in the process:

*Revocable Living Trust;
*Pour-over wills for both spouses;
*Durable Powers of Attorney for both spouses; and
*Living Wills for both spouses;
*All the transfer documents to transfer property to your Trust; and
*Instructions and documentation on how to maintain the Trust and related documents.

These are all the components you need to have a successful Oklahoma Estate Plan.

I usually charge a flat fee of approximately $1,700.00 for this work. I am lowering the price by over 25% to $1,200.00 (plus any out of pocket costs for things such as recording deeds). There is a lower cost if the planning is for a single person rather than a couple.

Online Convenience
The “online” part of this process is that with the exception of coming to my office to sign the final documents, we do everything else digitally. That means no travel or interruption to your schedules, you review the documents on your schedule and we correspond by email or telephone.

Get signed up
I am offering only 10 Packages at this price. To sign up for this deal (or purchase and give it as a gift to a relative or friend), just email me (sjr@shawnrjoberts.com) and ask for the “Holiday Estate Planning Package“.

Christmas icons

 

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning

Why privacy is a highly underrated feature of a living trust

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There are so many ways people get into our business.  One of the areas where people least want other people to invade their privacy is in their estate planning.  This post discusses how the living trust offers a high level of privacy over ways to plan your estate.
Continue reading →

Posted by Shawn Roberts in Blogposts, Oklahoma Estate Planning