estate planning

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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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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The Value of Letters of Instruction

Wills play a critical part in most estate plans, but they should be supported by other critical estate planning documents. These include letters of instruction, which play an important role in making sure that your loved ones know how to handle your estate following your death or incapacity. The following will review the role that letters of instruction can play in estate planning.   The Basic Elements   The content of letters of instruction varies greatly based on a person’s goals. One of the primary purposes of these documents is to provide details about a person’s wishes that have not yet been fully addressed in other estate planning documents.   In addition to addressing how you would like aspects of your funeral or burial handled, these letters can also address critical financial information that has been omitted. Many people rely on letters of instruction to list what insurance policies, retirement accounts, and other types of financial accounts they own.   Letters of instructions do more, however than just list financial accounts. These documents can contain account numbers as well as details about where important documents are stored. Many letters of instruction also contain the passwords required to access electronic financial     Read More

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Estate Planning Opportunities Presented by the Coronavirus Pandemic

It would be an understatement to say that our lives have changed as the result of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on the economy. While many people are facing hardships as they plan for what lies ahead, these difficult times have presented some powerful estate planning strategies. This article reviews some unique opportunities presented by the pandemic that can let you make the most of estate and gift taxes.  Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts These trusts are an ideal way to transfer assets that will appreciate in the future to children without facing transfer taxes. As part of these trusts, an individual transfers interests or securities to an irrevocable trust. Following this transfer, a person still has the right to receive trust annual annuity payments. Because the trust creator retains the full value of the transferred property, a gift is often considered to be made that would be subject to a gift tax.  For these trusts to transfer appreciation in the assets to a person’s children or beneficiaries, the rate of return must be greater than 7250 times the rate as of the date that the trust is created. The greater the return, the more appreciation that can be transferred.     Read More

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What is Form 709 and Why Would I Need it?

Given that the lifetime gas tax exemption for 2020 has been increased for the next year to $11.58 million, a much smaller portion of people is now subject to federal gift taxes. Many people are also wondering whether it is still necessary to file gift tax returns.  While it is not necessary to file these forms if your assets are below this threshold, there are situations in which you might want to file a Form 709, which is also known as a “United States Gift Tax Return.” This article reviews some critical details that you understand about the role of Form 709. What Does Not Require a Form 709 While many asset transfers constitute gifts, there are some notable exceptions. Some asset transfers that need not be reported on Form 709 include: Direct payments for qualifying medical or educational expenses. Deductible charitable gifts. Gifts of present interests within the annual exclusion amount. Gifts to a spouse who is a U.S. citizen either directly or through a qualifying trust Gifts to a noncitizen spouse within an annual exclusion amount of $157,000 Transfers in these categories are not subject to a gift tax return. All other gifts, however, must be reported through     Read More

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Four Critical Estate Planning Strategies for Difficult Times

The coronavirus pandemic has left many people curious about what estate planning strategy works. You also might have discovered that some estate planning strategies you once planned on utilizing are no longer the best choice. These difficult times also hopefully prompt people who have not yet engaged in estate planning to create strategies for unexpected incapacity or death, there are also some critical steps that you can take if you already have an estate plan to make sure that you are fully prepared for the future. Review the Terms of Existing Documents To make sure that your estate plan is still capable of achieving your goals, it is critical to review its essential terms. While looking over your estate plan, make sure to ask yourself the important questions: Are the people you designated as personal representatives still the best selections? Have births, deaths, divorce, or marriage impacted your intended beneficiaries? Is the amount that each beneficiary receives as a distribution still appropriate? Are your health care choices still appropriately reflected in your directives? Are the terms of your durable power of attorney still appropriate? Do your loved ones know where to find your estate planning documents? If you decide that     Read More

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Estate Planning Advice During the Coronavirus Pandemic

As Oklahoma begins to loosen its coronavirus restrictions, many people, including those with children, are wondering what they can do to make sure they are adequately prepared if they contract COVID-19 and are left incapacitated. Two substantial issues that parents worry about is who will make financial and medical decisions for them if they are not able to make them for themselves as well as who will take care of their children in case they are left unable to do so.  If you are left incapacitated as a result of the coronavirus or any other condition, your loved ones will need to go court to have a guardian appointed. This was a costly and time-consuming process before the pandemic, and now it is even more challenging. Consequently, it is best to prepare in advance and make sure that you have created several critical estate planning documents that address incapacity. Durable Power of Attorney These documents appoint an agent to help address your financial affairs if you are incapacitated. Rather than wait for the court to appoint a conservatory, an agent appointed through a durable power of attorney has instant access to your financial accounts and can sign your name on     Read More

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Advice on Turning Your Retirement Plan Into an Estate Plan

Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the country has understandably seen an increase in the number of people creating estate plans. If you feel the need to quickly create or revise the terms of your estate plan, there are easy changes that can be made to turn a retirement plan into a strategy to handle your death or incapacity. Create a Will If you have not yet created a will, it can be challenging to make sure that your will meets all requirements during stay at home restrictions. Oklahoma does not require you to notarize your will to make it legal, but if you want to create a "self-proving" will then you will need to notarize the document.  Wills that are "self-proving" proceed through the probate much more quickly because a court can accept the document without contacting witnesses. It can be challenging to notarize documents during the pandemic, even if you utilize creative methods like self-notarization. Fortunately, a knowledgeable estate planning attorney can make sure that your will is properly written as well as adequately executed and attested. Create a Power of Attorney Power of attorney documents allow a person to designate an individual to act on their behalf if     Read More

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