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Estate Planning

Estate Planning in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

WHAT IS ESTATE PLANNING?

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney is well versed in the process of assisting you in planning for the management of your estate while living as well as how your estate will be distributed at your death. The goal is to set up a plan which will avoid probate, care for your family and avoid as much taxation as possible. The plan may be very simple, with a few management tools or may be more complex to include one or more Trusts.

Other considerations may be guardianship for a minor or an  incapacitated beneficiary. There may be some inclusion of Elder Law in the Plan for long term care. 

Before meeting with your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney, it is imperative that you gather all your information about your assets including, but not limited to insurance policies, personal property assets, real property, investment accounts and any other assets you have. Without all of this information, your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney cannot give you the benefit of a plan that will give you peace of mind during your life and for future generations.

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ESTATE BASICS:

To begin a n Estate Plan, your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will advise you of three basic instruments necessary for Estate Planning. 

WILLS: 

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney most likely will explain that a Will is a legal document which determines the distribution of your estate upon death.  Furthermore, everyone, regardless of economic condition, should have a properly written Will. This is not a suggestion to run to the computer and pull up a Will document from the internet, even if the author insists it follows Oklahoma law. A Will is a  personal document with individual specifics of distribution and even can include burial directions. Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will prepare a legal document that the Oklahoma Courts will consider to be the absolute wishes of distribution under Probate law and/or inclusion in a Trust (to be  discussed herein). It can be upheld in Oklahoma Courts of law when your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney provides the document, with proper witnesses and attestation. A Will alone however, is not a device to avoid Probate, but it can be honored by Courts of Jurisdiction, other than Oklahoma. Even if you do not include any other estate planning device, a Will should be made by your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney. 

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will most certainly explain that without a Will, your estate will be divided in Probate pursuant to the Oklahoma Statutes of Intestate Succession which may not be your intent of distribution. Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney may tell you that in most situations, Probate distributes all of an Estate unless augmented by a Trust.

TRUSTS:

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney is your best resource to prepare a proper Trust to further your needs and wishes of your Will. There is a type of Trust for almost every situation. In Oklahoma as in many other jurisdictions, three basic types of Trusts are more frequently used. 

REVOCABLE TRUST AND IRREVOCABLE TRUST: Two Commonly used  Trusts      

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will explain that a revocable Trust gives the Grantor, or you as owner of your assets, an opportunity to retain control of these assets, while providing care for you during your lifetime, and will distribute assets to your beneficiaries after you pass. 

A Revocable Trust is what it is called: Revocable. You as Grantor may revoke the Trust at any time . Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will guide you in the process. As Grantor you appoint a Trustee to manage your assets. You may be both the Grantor and Trustee, thus the use being preferable because you keep control of your assets. You set up a Trust Agreement wherein you provide for a successor trustee to act upon your death in the distribution of the assets to the beneficiaries. Married couples may be Co-Grantors and Co-Trustees. Check with your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney to determine the various distributions which may be made when one of the Trustees dies.

In the instance of a remarriage of the surviving Co-Trustee,  your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will most probably suggest that you provide a term of agreement within the Revocable Trust that the revocable trust becomes irrevocable . This will protect the distributions as set forth originally. Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will explain that a Successor Trustee, be it a surviving  Co-Trustee or a third party appointed Trustee, cannot change the terms of the Irrevocable Trust or the beneficiaries.

GRANTOR TRUST:

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney may suggest a Grantor Trust. This would allow you as Grantor to own and control your assets and any investments in a trust The advantage is that the income from the assets or investments will be taxed and paid by you as Grantor rather than as a Trust. You will have the protection of paying tax at an individual rate rather than at the Trust rate. The tax advantage of paying a lower rate, personally than a tax rate for a Trust may be well worth setting this type of Trust. Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney can give you more details about this option.

WILL THE USE OF A REVOCABLE TRUST AVOID PROBATE?

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will discuss with you the  possibility of avoiding Probate with a Revocable Trust. Your assets will be transferred into the trust and upon your death will be distributed by your Trustee, or in the case where you and your spouse are Co-Trustees, the survivor continues the Trust with a third party named as Successor Trustee to  complete the distribution whenever the survivor passes.

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will tell you that the transfer of your assets into your  Revocable Trust can be used to distribute your estate assets to beneficiaries without the Probate procedure. 

PROBATE:

Your Oklahoma City  Estate Planning Attorney will explain that Probate is a legal process which involves the appointment of an Administrator who is paid from the assets of the estate, has several duties including presenting the Will to the Court for admission into Probate, and for the Court to examine the Will for validity and  to hear any challenges to the Will in a trial before the Court. The Administrator manages the assets, pays all creditors, and taxes prior to being able to distribute assets to the beneficiaries. Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will most certainly tell you that this process delays the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries, whereas assets in a Trust may be distributed in much less time upon the death of the Grantor.

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney may point out these other pitfalls to having to file a Probate.  Expenses of having to pay the Administrator perhaps Accountants, a probate attorney, property appraisals and liquidation costs are just a few matters that will extend the Probate procedure cost. Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will inform you that Probate is not a private process. It is a matter of public record n Oklahoma and anyone has access to any document which is filed with the Court. Probate can be troublesome and expensive while  the use of a Trust to transfer assets to beneficiaries is cost effective and private.

SPECIAL NEEDS TRUST:  Special Needs Planning and Trusts:

This area of law is  specialized and not for the do it yourself person. It takes knowledge of the current tax laws as well as a thorough knowledge of disability law and its pitfalls. Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney will discuss with you the following information.

Special needs Trusts are used to generally set up a separate account specifically for the special needs person, usually a child. The State of Oklahoma has special rules and guidelines for special needs Trusts. The purpose of the Trust is to provide additional money for the comfort, health and welfare of a disabled person while steering clear of situations which may prevent the disabled person from receiving Government funds or programs especially set up for the disabled.

For instance, a parent may set aside in a separate account or trust, a certain amount of money that is formulated to keep within the parameters of the limitations of governmental programs. This money is available through the parent or perhaps a guardian, who is responsible for the welfare of the child or adult person.

Because there are many pitfalls in using your money to augment Federal programs, it is advisable to engage the services of an Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney who is knowledgeable  in government benefit programs and the limitations of spending for the disabled person in the State of Oklahoma.

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney may discuss a particular Federal Program which is available to the disabled in Oklahoma.  Titled ABLE (A Better Life Experience) The program gives disabled persons, such as adults who may have been severely injured and as a result receive government benefits to use their own money to augment the benefits for a better life. The ABLE account can be used without impacting the means-tested benefits that are available to many disabled persons. It may be used by any disabled persons who have their own funds. An ABLE account is designed to be easy to use, manage and to make contributions. Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney can explain the program to you, including tax advantages of an ABLE account.

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OTHER CONSIDERATIONS IN ESTATE PLANNING:

Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney can assist you in several other Estate Planning matters ie;  

  • Power of Attorney for Healthcare, which will designate a Health Care Proxy, required of most hospitals today;
  • Power of Attorney for Financial Decisions when you are temporarily disabled because of illness or injury, so your monthly bills will be paid or certain other private matters can be attended to.
  • A Do Not Resusitate  Form or a Physician’ s Directive, also known as a Living Will, concerning your wishes should you not able to communicate,  is also required of most hospitals.

Additionally, Your Oklahoma City Estate Planning Attorney has the expertise to advise you in the use of other Trusts that will meet all of your needs for a workable Estate Plan.

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