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Oklahoma City Legal Blog

Is Guardianship Right for Your Oklahoma Estate Plan?

Elderly individuals are a vulnerable population, and unfortunately, the coronavirus pandemic has only made this more true. Besides being one of the hardest-hit age groups, the negative impacts of isolation can also have a detrimental impact on the well-being of older adults. Unfortunately, isolation also means that degenerative conditions like Alzheimer’s can develop without being noticed early. While some people think that pursuing guardianship might be a good strategy if a loved one ends up in such a situation, in reality, guardianship may or may not be the best option. The Guardianship Process in Oklahoma Guardianship in Oklahoma can only be appointed by a court. Located at Title 30 of the Oklahoma Statutes, the state's guardianship laws require a person seeking guardianship to file the appropriate paperwork, pay court fees, and attend a court hearing. Guardianship is only granted over an adult when the adult is determined to be either fully or partially incapacitated. An incapacitated individual is someone who is over the age of 18 and not able to make competent decisions regarding their life. Oklahoma law acknowledges three types of guardianship. General guardians look over a person and all of his or her property, limited guardians exercise limited     Read More

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The 2020 Presidential Election and Your Estate Plan

In 2020, many people had various parts of their lives changed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. With the United States presidential election scheduled for November 3 of this year, many of us are about to have our lives changed even more. As we anticipate this event, it is critical to review the terms of your estate plan. After all, estate plans should be reviewed periodically to make sure that the plan is capable of achieving your estate goals in a way that reflects existing laws. If you have not yet written your estate plan but are preparing to do so, you should create your estate plan in consideration of these potential changes. While there is no saying how the election will unfold, you can take the time now to make sure your estate plan accurately reflects any necessary changes.   How the 2020 Election Could Change Things   If the Republican Party prevails in the election, the party has proposed few changes and will instead maintain existing estate planning taxes as they are under the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Acts. In contrast, if the Democratic party prevails in the election, they have proposed several critical changes to     Read More

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Should You Place Real Estate in a Trust?

If you are interested in avoiding probate, you might have considered placing property in a trust. You might also have questions about whether the trust will be able to protect from creditors or remove the real estate from your taxable assets. This article reviews some critical details to understand about placing real estate in a trust, but remember that in these situations it also helps to speak with a skilled attorney.   How Trusts Function   Before discussing reasons to place real estate in a trust, it helps to understand some of the most basic terms used in relation to trusts, which include:   A beneficiary is a person designated to receive assets under the terms of the trust A grantor is an individual who establishes and fund the trust A trustee is an individual tasked with managing the assets in a trust   Avoiding Probate by Placing Real Estate in a Trust   The main advantage of placing real estate in a trust is to avoid the probate process, which can be both costly and lengthy. Passing real estate to loved ones through the terms of a will, however, results in the assets being subject to various costs. Because     Read More

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How to Stop Stalling and Write Your Will 

Despite what some people believe, estate plans are not only for the wealthiest or the oldest individuals. While simple estate planning documents like wills can benefit everyone, it is easy to delay writing them. After all, no one likes to be confronted with the idea that they are dying or might one day need someone else to raise their children.    If you have not gotten very far in creating an estate plan, you face the danger of dying “intestate,” which means that you will die without estate planning documents that guide your loved ones on how to handle things. To make sure that you create the necessary estate plan, it is helpful to remember several helpful estate planning tips.   Remember Why You are Doing it   Rather than focus on yourself, remember that estate plans are the best way to make sure that you provide for your loved ones. Providing details about what you want to happen after you pass away as well as who you would like to care for children who pass away can be a tremendously meaningful thing for your family. Making these decisions now saves you the expenses of later having to pay for     Read More

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Potential Estate Tax Changes Due to the 2020 Election

While the date of the 2020 election comes closer, estate planning lawyers are informing clients to anticipate the various changes to estate planning taxes that are likely to occur regardless of which candidate prevails. The following reviews some areas of estate planning that are likely to change following the 2020 Presidential election.   Decreased Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions   Even if it does not change due to a shift in political administrations, the existing estate and gift tax exemption of $11,580,000 will decrease in 2026 to the much lower amount of $5,000,000. This exemption could lower in 2021, however, as part of Democratic tax reforms. Similarly, the current generation-skipping tax exemptions are $11,580,000 and Vice President Biden has suggested that this amount could be lowered to $3,500,000 per individual.   Increased Estate Tax Rates   Since 2013, the estate tax has been 40%. Taxpayers who passed away in 2011 or 2012, however, utilized an estate tax rate of 35%. Not too long ago, in the early 2000s, the estate tax rate was between 45% to 55%. While the Democrat Presidential Nominee is likely to decrease the estate and gift tax exemption, it is also likely that additional tax reforms     Read More

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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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