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Everything You Need to Know About Probate

Probate is a critical court-supervised proceeding that is utilized to take control of a deceased person’s estate. While Oklahoma has some nuanced laws regarding how probate proceeds in the state, the process still has the overall purpose of both authenticating and validating a person’s will and making sure that debts are paid.   What Does Probate Mean?   Probate refers to a court-controlled proceeding in which control is taken of a deceased person’s estate. The probate process refers to transferring ownership of a deceased person’s assets to beneficiaries. Some of the primary players involved with the probate process include:   The executor or personal representative is tasked with administering the estate. These individuals help to make sure that assets in an estate are distributed according to a will. Beneficiaries are the individuals who inherit assets from an estate. Sometimes people who are not directly named in estate planning documents might also believe that they have a claim as beneficiaries. Creditors might be notified of the probate proceeding and can sometimes collect on debts that are owed by an estate.   Understanding How the Probate Process Works   After a person’s death, a surviving loved one will likely need to collect     Read More

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How to Anticipate Tax Changes with a Potential Administration Change

In a Wall Street Journal article published last month, Philip DeMuth commented that Americans currently live in an ideal age of taxes due to President Trump’s 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts. Unfortunately, however, the tax advantages offered through various regulations passed by the current administration are scheduled to end on December 31, 2025.    Potential Changes to Estate Planning Laws   It is a good idea to review each estate planning during such uncertain times to make certain that assets are not placed at risk of unnecessary taxation. Some of the potential changes that could occur include:   Increasing the maximum estate tax rate from 40% to 77% Placing substantial limits on estate planning techniques like Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts and Defect Grantor Trusts Reducing estate and gift taxes as well as generation-skipping transfer tax to $3,500,000 from $11,580,000 Restricting the $15,000 annual gift exclusion afforded to unlimited donees to only two donees a year    Even though it can be difficult to predict what regulations might be passed into law, due to both the significant federal deficit and current political government, at least some of these regulations are likely to come to pass.   Estate Planning Techniques During     Read More

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Appreciating the Importance of Medical Directives During the Pandemic

As the coronavirus pandemic continues throughout Oklahoma, many people are faced with the question of whether their estate plan is sufficient. While many people think that a will is sufficient, it is often important to create other critical estate planning documents. During these times, it is helpful to consider whether a “living will” or “medical directive” is a suitable estate planning tool to create in case you ever pass away or become incapacitated.    The Difference Between Living Wills and Medical Directives   Living wills serve the purpose of reflecting what or whether or a person would like to receive life-sustaining procedures. Living wills are classified as only one type of advance directive, which directly focuses on measures required to sustain a person's life. Some of the other types of advance directives include a wide range of alternative planning options.   Living wills fall into the category of medical directive, which refers to documents establishing a person’s wishes for certain medical procedures as well as end-of-life care. While the term “advance directives” is often used in relation to these documents, this often refers to power of attorney documents that assign another individual’s ability to make financial or medical decisions.        Read More

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Estate Planning Basics as Children Head Back to School During the Pandemic

Oklahoma public schools are poised to return on August 10th. Understandably, going back to school during the COVID-19 pandemic has given many people time to think about the strengths and weaknesses of the system. Even if you work somewhere other than a school or hospital, back to school is one of the best times of the year to make sure that everything in your house is in order, including your estate plan.    Why You Need an Estate Plan   While many people think of wills when they think of estate planning, there are many other critical documents that a person should utilize to plan for death or incapacity. While it is a great first step to write these documents, it is just as good an idea to continuously revisit these documents after they are created to make sure that they still reflect your intentions.   Other Documents to Consider Including in Your Estate Plan   Besides a will, some of the other valuable documents that you should consider utilizing as a part of your estate plan include:   Trusts: There are many kinds of trusts that can be utilized to achieve various purposes. Most trusts involve a designated individual     Read More

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Four Essential Inherited IRA Rules That Beneficiaries Should Know

If you are like one of many people who inherited an individual retirement account (IRA) this year, you likely have countless questions involving estate planning and taxes. While it can be a financial advantage to inherit an IRA account, there are still taxes to worry about, and making one wrong decision can raise the attention of the Internal Revenue Service. Some people decide not to make any decisions on how to handle an IRA account without first speaking with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. It can also help to understand some vital but often overlooked rules addressing how IRA accounts must be handled.    Do Not Forget About Year-of-Death Distributions   One challenge presented by IRAs is deciding if its creator took a required minimum distribution in the year that he or she passed away. If the creator failed to take a required minimum distribution this year, the beneficiary must make sure this requirement is met. Remember, however, if the creator had not reached the age of 70 and a half by the time he or she passed away, there is no year-of-death required distribution.    Your Situation Influences How You Handle the IRA   If you inherited an IRA,     Read More

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Three Things to Know About Oklahoma Spendthrift Trusts

A spendthrift trust refers to a type of trust that lets beneficiaries inherit money without the ability to decide how the money is spent. These trusts are particularly helpful when an heir lacks the responsibility necessary to manage assets. Instead, these trusts grant the authority to determine how assets are spent to an independent trustee, who makes all decisions about how funds should be used for a recipient’s benefit. Because spendthrift trusts play an important but complex role, this article reviews three things to understand about the way in which these trusts operate.   How Spendthrift Trusts Work   These trusts prohibit beneficiaries from borrowing or spending against trust funds. The trusts are also created to prevent creditors from seizing any assets in the trust to pay debts owed by the beneficiary. To be effective, a spendthrift trust must contain precise language. Oklahoma as well as many other states recognize spendthrift trusts.    The Reasons Why People Create Spendthrift Trusts   There are several reasons why people create spendthrift trusts, but some of the most common advantages include:   Creating a trust is a powerful way to make sure that your beneficiaries receive adequate care and protection even if you     Read More

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Critical Steps to Take After the Death of a Loved One

While we hopefully can all weather the COVID-19 pandemic safely, the truth is that some Oklahomans will pass away as a result of the virus. Losing a loved one is an overwhelming and challenging process. Rather than focus on administering an estate, you should instead focus on you and your loved ones coping and safely weathering the loss. The following outlines some helpful steps to take after losing a loved one.   Focus on Yourself and Your Family   There can be an overwhelming number of odd tasks to tackle after the loss of a loved one ranging from putting things in boxes to filling out paperwork. Rather than let yourself get overwhelmed with all there is to do, try to focus on what is essential during this difficult time. This means making sure that you take adequate care of not just your health, but also your family members.   Avoid Making Sudden Decisions   Following the loss of a loved one, many people find themselves overcome with difficult emotions and struggling to think clearly. To avoid making any undesirable mistakes during this difficult time, it is critical that you avoid making any sudden major decisions.   Understand Power of     Read More

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Making an Estate Planning “Football” During the COVID-19 Pandemic

We often discuss the various types of estate planning documents and their value, but it is just as important to realize that an estate plan does little good if the key people either do not know about the estate plan or are unable to access key documents after a person’s death or incapacity. The need to make sure that your loved ones can quickly access your estate planning documents has become even more important as the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates in Oklahoma and the risk grows of people suddenly falling ill or ending up incapacitated. It is a common occurrence after a person unexpectedly passes away or becomes incapacitated that their loved ones must go on a hunt to locate that individual’s estate planning documents. This problem can be avoided by having your estate planning documents current and contained in a specific location.  Some have suggested creating a “nuclear football” during the COVID-19 pandemic, which refers to the briefcase that the President of the United States supposedly uses to authorize a nuclear attack. To avoid leaving your loved ones unable to locate your critical estate planning documents, it is a good idea to create your own version of a nuclear football     Read More

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Think Twice About Adding a Beneficiary to Your Deed

One of the critical reasons to engage in estate planning is that the upfront costs to establish the proper estate planning strategies often cost much less than the trouble that can arise if a person does not create a proper plan. One of the most costly types of estate planning errors involves the methods that a person utilizes to convey property to loved ones following death or incapacity.    A unique challenge presented by many individuals currently engaged in the estate planning process is that they have been in their “home” or property for many years, during which time the worth of the estate has increased substantially. Consequently, a transfer of the property creates long term gain complications, which means that listing a beneficiary on a property deed is often not the best type of estate planning strategy.    The Challenge Presented by Listing Beneficiaries   Most people list beneficiaries on various estate planning documents including life insurance policies, retirement accounts, and trusts. Consequently, these individuals often make the mistake of thinking that it will present little harm to name a beneficiary on a deed. Even if a person is aware of the risk presented by transferring property in this     Read More

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Deciding Inheritance Issues for Agricultural Property

In many parts of Oklahoma, landowners must answer questions about how agricultural land must pass to loved ones after the owner’s death or incapacity. Questions about how estates can be passed on and what parties who do not inherit ownership of land will receive are common in such cases. Understandably, many Oklahoma agriculture and farm owners discover that it is more difficult to decide how to transfer this property than it is other types of land.   Emotional Connection to Land   For the owners of non-agricultural land, the transfer of property at the end of life is generally a non-emotional process. Most agricultural landowners, however, have a deep connection to the land. Many of these owners recall the process of having to buy out siblings as well as the earlier generation. As a result, while decisions can often be made more quickly and unemotionally for other landowners, this just is not so for the majority of farm owners.   Operation Versus Land Uses   When a person refers to a “farm,” this often includes both the operation of the land as well as the underlying land. Transferring a farm is unique because often the land is transferred differently than     Read More

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