Oklahoma City Legal Blog

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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Five Members of Your Estate Planning Team

While estate planning is focused on the personal issues of your incapacity or death, it is still a team strategy. The strongest estate plans make use of a team, with each individual performing unique tasks to make sure that your goals are satisfied. It can be confusing, at first, to distinguish the role each individual plays in achieving your goals. ATo help you better create an ideal estate plan, the following reviews some critical parties who can help you make the most of your estate plan. Beneficiary A beneficiary is anyone who receives a beneficial interest in something of value from your estate. While a wide range of individuals can function in the role of beneficiary, it is important that a beneficiary has the maturity necessary to manage assets received from an estate.  CPA CPAs as well as accountants have an intricate understanding of tax laws and can make sure that you create an estate plan that makes the most of available tax frameworks. No estate plan is ever really complete until it takes valuable aspects like transfer taxes into consideration. Financial Power of Attorney Agent Durable powers of attorney are utilized to designate an individual to handle various financial     Read More

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Avoid These Common Estate Planning Excuses

Despite the concerns brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, many of us still lead busy lives. We often have little time left for what we want to do, let alone to dedicate toward planning the future. Also, while many people take the initial time to create estate planning documents, they later fail to appropriately update these documents when circumstances change. In the hopes that you will be able to recognize and overcome your justification for delaying estate planning, this article reviews some of the most common reasons why people fail to create or revise estate plans. Your Family Already Knows What Your Plan is If you do not yet have an estate plan, Oklahoma has a series of rules regarding how your estate will be administered if you die without leaving behind an estate plan. For married individuals, these regulations often result in most or all of their assets being passed to the surviving spouse. If a person is not married and has no children, that individual’s parents might end up receiving his or her estate. Remember, if you pass away without a will, a judge who has never met you will apply the law to your estate and distribute     Read More

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Five Critical Estate Planning Steps to Take After Your Divorce

Based on research provided by Legal Templates, there has been a 34% increase in divorce filings since the COVID-19 pandemic began. People navigating the divorce process understandably are faced with many issues ranging from how children will be impacted by the end of the marriage to where both spouses will live after the divorce is finalized. As a result, issues involving estate planning often take a back seat. If your divorce involves the division of assets, however, it is critical to take some important steps to plan for your future. Update Your Automobile and Homeowners Insurance One of the most tedious yet critical parts of managing assets after a divorce is to make sure that your various insurance policies are properly updated. This includes updating both your homeowners and motor vehicle policy information. This way you avoid incurring additional liability in relation to any accidents involving your former spouse. Revise Your Health Insurance Policy If you previously had health insurance with your spouse, you will now likely need to obtain your own policy. You might decide to temporarily utilize the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) to stay on your former spouse’s insurance policy. In most cases, however, it pays     Read More

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Selling a House for a Loved One With Dementia

Many people find themselves in the challenging position of having to sell a loved one’s home to pay for that person’s medical care. While this is a difficult ordeal regardless of your loved one’s condition, selling a home becomes even more complex if a loved one is suffering from dementia or mentally incapacitated. To better prepare individuals who find themselves in such a situation, the following reviews critical details that caregivers should appreciate before taking steps to sell their loved one’s home. Can a Person With Dementia Sell Their Home? Only the individual who owns a home can transfer the house to a buyer. If an elderly person has become incapacitated, that individual must appoint someone else through the terms of a durable power of attorney document to act on the individual’s behalf before a sale can occur. If a caregiver or family member has no legal authority through the proper estate planning tools to do so, this individual cannot sell the home. Selling a Parent’s Home When You Have Power of Attorney The authorizations in a power of attorney document distinguish what a person can and cannot do. Many financial power of attorney documents grant an agent the broad     Read More

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Mistakes Frequently Made in Trust Administration

Creating a trust helps people achieve various important goals. Trusts help to manage assets and property as well as make sure that assets are appropriately distributed after a person's death. Trusts can also protect from creditors and others who are interested in collecting on debts. Despite these advantages, however, administering a trust appropriately is not easy. There are several mistakes that people commonly make while handling trusts. Not Understanding What is Required as a Trustee Sometimes, trustees are appointed without being certain about what their responsibilities are. Other times, ambiguous language in the terms of the trust leaves a trustee uncertain what the trust’s creator wanted. Because trustees are personally liable for mismanagement of trusts, it is a good idea for trustees to carefully identify what duties are requested and whether any potential conflicts need to be resolved first. Mismanagement of Trust Assets Trustees have a duty to act in the best interest of the trust beneficiaries and must also conform to federal laws and regulations. These regulations permit beneficiaries to pursue payment from trustees for any investment decisions that lead to financial losses. Trustees, however, can protect themselves by delegating investment duties to a professional investor. Not Remaining Neutral     Read More

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Recognizing When it is Time to Revise Your Estate Plan

Life changes. So does the way that we should handle our estate plans. As a result, it is a good idea to continuously review your estate plan to make sure that it reflects both your current and future goals.  Many life changes necessitate a revision of your estate plan, which is why it is a good idea to routinely read over the terms of your estate plan. This article was created to help provide a better idea of what situations should necessitate a fine-tuning of your estate plan. Federal Changes The exemption amount for federal estate gift and estate tax exemptions has changed significantly over the last few years, due in no small part to 2017’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act. If you wrote your estate plan before this time, it might be a good idea to revise your estate plan to reflect these changes.  Additionally, as 2020 nears its end, changes in both congressional and presidential leadership could also signify substantial changes in laws that impact estate planning.  Marital Status Changes Changing your marital status can greatly disrupt how your assets are transferred after a loved one dies. Marital status can include not just getting married but also divorce,     Read More

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Critical Ways to Maintain Your Advance Health Care Directive

The pandemic has disrupted many aspects of our daily lives. The pandemic has also resulted in significant changes for estate planning, which includes how people think about advance health care directives. Often, these directives specify the type of medical care that patients would like to or do not want to receive in case they are not able to communicate.  These documents also serve the invaluable role of expressing the specific approach that patients would like towards life-saving measures. Many times, advance directives are used in combination with living wills, which appoint a health care proxy to make decisions in case a person is incapacitated.  The Unpredictable Nature of the Coronavirus Tragically, during the coronavirus pandemic, many people are admitted to the hospital without loved ones present due to concerns about how the disease will spread. The most serious COVID-19 patients are as a result at a significant risk of having their intent overlooked by medical professionals.  Additionally, the trajectory of the virus varies greatly, and often there is not a large window in which to treat a person. By having an advanced healthcare directive in place, however, a person can greatly increase the likelihood that their intent is known.  Assumptions     Read More

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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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