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Five Steps to Avoid Probate Litigation

There are some estate planning strategies that you can utilize now that will make things much easier on your loved ones in case you pass away or end up incapacitated. You do this to eliminate many of the possible complications that your loved ones could face after you pass away. One  significant hardship for your heirs that you likely want to avoid is for your estate to get tied up in a lengthy, costly, and stressful probate process. The following are some steps you can take now to eliminate the chances your estate will end up in costly probate litigation after your passing.  Adequately Update Your Estate Plan Having a current estate plan is one of the best ways to make sure that you are adequately prepared for the various changes that lie ahead. This means making sure that you always sufficiently express your intent to anyone impacted by your estate plan.  Have Honest Conversations Whether you notice the early signs of dementia in a loved one or have unique estate plan goals, it is almost always a good idea to have open and direct conversations with your loved ones in case you end up incapacitated or pass away. You     Read More

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Three Things to Understand about Joint Property Ownership

A common piece of advice offered by estate planning lawyers is that various advantages can be realized by owning property jointly. In reality, joint ownership offers several advantages for surviving family members. Instead of viewing joint property ownership as an answer to every estate planning challenge, however, it is a good idea to be aware of the challenges and issues involved with such an estate planning technique. There are Two Types of Joint Ownership Joint ownership requires more than one party having interest in a property. For married couples, there are two options regarding how to jointly structure ownership of property: Joint tenancy with the right of survivorship is the most common type of joint property ownership. Titling assets in such a way often means that the property will be used for a personal residence. Structuring property in such a way means that either spouse can sell their share of the property without obtaining the other’s consent.  In property that is structured as tenancy by the entirety, one person owns his or her share of the property without the involvement of the other. Structuring property this way provides better creditor protection. In New York, unless the deceased individual who owned     Read More

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Four Tips for Fireproofing Your Estate Plan

As we begin the new year, it is a good idea to review the terms of your estate plan. As you glance over these documents, which likely include things like powers of attorney, trusts, wills, and advance healthcare directives, it is important to ask whether your estate plan is still capable of achieving your objectives. A skilled estate planning attorney can help you review your plan to make sure that it is still the best idea to achieve your goals given various changes with estate planning and tax laws. Think about your estate planning as fireproofing your legacy. While poorly written estate plans will do little to protect your loved ones from risk, a fire-proof estate plan will ensure that your loved ones remain safe and well provided for long after you are gone.  Adequately Planning for Blended Families For people with blended families, the question of who should receive what asset is often a much more complicated issue. Failure to properly pass on assets can leave children and other family members greatly disappointed. If a surviving spouse is placed in control of trust assets, stepchildren might be neglected in how an estate is administered. To fully fire-proof your estate     Read More

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Four Clever Estate Planning Strategies You Should Consider

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, many people are finding themselves wishing they had created an estate plan earlier. Remember, without the proper plan, an Oklahoma court will be required to make many difficult decisions about your estate and how your assets are transferred. Given various changes to several critical aspects of estate planning law, however, it can be challenging to determine what strategy works best for you. The following discusses just some of the advantageous estate planning tactics that you might consider. Think Twice About Estate Planning Tactics The passage of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 disrupted IRAs by requiring most non-spouse beneficiaries to receive assets from the account in accordance with a 10-year window. Previously, beneficiaries could stretch out the duration of IRA distributions over a lifetime. Beneficiaries who are not more than 10 years younger than the account owner, however, can still distribute assets based throughout  that individual’s life expectancy. As a result, you might wish to reconsider how asset distribution through your IRA is made. Utilizing a Roth Conversion The same 2019 legislation also increased the age for required minimum distributions from 70 and a half to 72. Individuals younger than     Read More

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Four Things to Consider About Holiday Gifting and Estate Planning

We have all received holiday gifts we secretly did not want or that did not fit us at all. In the same way that mistakes are a common occurrence when people gift Christmas presents, mistakes are also common when people make gifts as part of an estate plan. While there are many complex estate planning laws, by mastering them you can maximize the amount of assets that you pass on to loved ones. The following reviews just some of the critical strategies that you should remember to follow if you plan on gifting assets to a loved one this holiday season. Consider Waiting Until Early in the Year Many people gift during Christmas and the end of the year, but in reality, it is better to pass on gifts early in the year. By gifting early, the year’s gains are transferred to the beneficiary’s tax status. Additionally, by gifting early in the year, you make sure that you have ample time to carefully choose and plan the gift. Consider waiting a month or two and avoiding a rushed gift this holiday season. Plan Carefully for Appreciated Assets Many people write checks when making gifts as part of an estate plan,     Read More

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Four Critical Steps for Efficient Estate Planning

Estate planning is rarely as easy as people think it will be. Even after appointing the trustee of an estate or a personal representative, there are often other nuanced decisions that must be made about how your estate plan should be handled. Failure to properly address these challenges now could lead your loved ones to face countless obstacles after you pass away or become incapacitated. Fortunately, by completing some additional assignments now, you can avoid many of these obstacles. The following reviews just some of the strategies that you can follow to achieve your estate planning goals. Sign Any Documents You Can Now You should make sure you have signed all of the documents signed by your bank and financial lender that you can now while you are fully competent. Even when power of attorney documents are involved, a person is still required to sign these documents. Signing these documents now increases the odds that the distribution of your assets will proceed as smoothly as possible after you pass away and that your loved ones will receive assets as quickly as possible. Beneficiaries, however, should still be prepared to wait at least six months and often as long as a     Read More

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Three Tips on Creating an Estate Plan as the Guardian of a Special Needs Adult

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people have been forced to confront their mortality. Subsequently, a growing number of people are realizing that estate plans are not just for the extremely old and that it is a good idea to make sure you have an appropriate estate plan in place.  If you are the guardian of a special needs adult, it is particularly important to make sure that your loved one has an estate plan in place. Remember, disabled adults are much more likely than adults without disabilities to have various health complications including heart disease, lung disease, and various types of cancers. As the guardian of a disabled person, you must make sure that you are as prepared as possible to navigate these challenges. Having an estate plan in place is one of the best ways to prepare for these hardships. Advance Healthcare Directives On its most basic level, advance healthcare directives allow a person to select an agent to make decisions on the creator’s behalf regarding healthcare decisions in the case that the creator becomes incapacitated and cannot do so. In the case of a special needs individual, it is a good idea to begin by     Read More

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Advice on Preparing for Year-End Estate Planning 

As the presidential election approached, there was substantial discussion about what estate planning actions should be taken before the end of the year. Behind this decision is the notion that, provided the Democrats win the Presidency and take a majority of the Senate, there very well could be a substantial reduction in both the amount of estate and gift exemptions. The following reviews some critical estate planning issues that you should consider as 2020 comes to a close. Exemptions Will Eventually Change Despite current exemptions, there are still many individuals who have taxable estates. Even if the exemption does not immediately revert, it is still set to switch back to its pre-2018 levels in 2026. Individuals with exempt estates can benefit from making tax-exempt gifts now. For people who would not owe exemptions at death now but who would at the time of their death, it is important to consider that there are multiple ways to structure estate planning transfers, including trusts.  Beneficiaries Can Claim Trusts To transfer assets, you might decide to utilize trusts, but remember that trust beneficiaries can disclaim gifts to trusts. In such cases, trusts can utilize terms for alternative dispositions. Some unanswered questions persist, however,     Read More

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Understanding the Court’s Role if You Pass Away Without a Will

One of the most critical aspects of estate planning is naming a person who will make decisions in case you become incapacitated or pass away. After your death, a personal representative (or executor) will perform essential tasks like paying outstanding debts and taxes and overseeing the distribution of assets. While representatives play an invaluable role in the resolution of estates, not everyone takes the steps necessary to make this appointment. Instead, if a person passes away without a will, or dies intestate, a judge in an Oklahoma court will decide who should act as that person’s personal representative. When many people learn more about how this appointment is made, they experience an increased motivation to make sure to write the appropriate estate planning documents. How Oklahoma Law Functions in Such a Situation A probate court will appoint an estate administrator in case you die intestate. The court’s decision about how to nominate as an administrator will be influenced by state law. While every state provides a prioritized list of preferred parties to function in this role, Oklahoma’s guidance is particularly detailed. In order, the following parties in Oklahoma are appointed to act as executors: The surviving spouse or someone nominated     Read More

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Four Things to Routinely Review in Your Estate Plan

Estate plans are not meant to be written in stone. Instead, after creating an estate plan, it is a good idea to routinely revisit the terms of your plan to make sure that it still expresses your values for how to handle your estate in case you are incapacitated or pass away. While they might not seem major, even small changes in your personal life or in the area of tax law can have a substantial impact on the terms of your estate plan. This article reviews some of the critical areas that you should remember to review when it comes time to evaluate the terms of your estate plan. Whether Circumstances That Influence Decisions Have Changed For many people, it is an understatement that 2020 was a year full of change. While children were born and some people got married, there were also many divorces and serious illnesses. Each of these changes has the potential to substantially disrupt your estate plan. For example, a beneficiary might have unexpectedly passed away which means that you will need to appoint another party to receive this share of your estate. Another example might be a person who decides to leave an amount     Read More

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