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Estate Planning

Estate Planning

While nobody wants to think about death or disability, establishing an estate plan is one of the most important steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones.  Proper estate planning not only puts you in charge of your finances, it can also spare your loved ones of the expense, delay and frustration associated with managing your affairs when you pass away or become disabled.  And we find that the most important aspect is not your valuables, but your values, and how they will be addressed as you design your estate plan with our help.

You should give careful thought to the choice of your trustee, ensuring that he or she shares the values you want instilled in your survivors. You will also want to give consideration to the age and financial health of a potential guardian for your minor children. Some guardians may lack child-rearing skills you feel are necessary and you will need to consider whether your plan creates an additional financial burden for the guardian.  We can help with these decisions.
 
Another issue to consider is whether you’d like your beneficiaries to receive your assets directly, or whether you’d prefer to have the assets placed in trust and distributed based a number of factors which you designate, such as age, need, disabilities, and even incentives based on behavior and education. All too often, children receive substantial assets before they are mature enough to handle them properly, with devastating results. We can help you design an estate plan that minimizes the potential for "affluenza" and protects those you care about most from creditors and predetors
 

Providing for Incapacity

If you become incapacitated, you won’t be able to manage your own financial affairs.  Many are under the mistaken impression that their spouse or adult children can automatically take over for them in case they become incapacitated.  The truth is that in order for others to be able to manage your finances, they must petition a court to declare you legally incompetent.  This process can be lengthy, costly and stressful.  Even if the court appoints the person you would have chosen, they may have to come back to the court every year and show how they are spending and investing each and every penny.  If you want your family to be able to immediately take over for you, you must designate a person or persons that you trust in proper legal documents so that they will have the authority to withdraw money from your accounts, pay bills, take distributions from your IRAs, sell stocks, and refinance your home.  A will does not take effect until you die and a power of attorney may be insufficient.
 
In addition to planning for the financial aspect of your affairs during incapacity, you should establish a plan for your medical care.  The law allows you to appoint someone you trust - for example, a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself.  You can do this by using a durable power of attorney for health care where you designate the person to make such decisions.  In addition to a power of attorney for heath care, you should also have a living will which informs others of your preferred medical treatments such as the use of extraordinary measures should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.

Shielding Assets from Creditors

As part of our estate planning process we help clients arrange their finances, real property and other assets in a manner that minimizes their exposure to potential creditors, By establishing appropriate and properly drafted trusts, determining insurance needs, and organizing investments and business entities, our clients are able to enjoy the highest level of confidence in terms of the security of their accumulated assets.

A creditor who initiates litigation against a person who has placed his or her assets into a trust, a foundation, or other entity may find that there are very few collectible assets actually owned by the person they wish to sue. Assets owned by a properly structured trust, foundation, or other entity are generally not subject to claims against their beneficiaries. In addition, placing assets into an asset protection entity may have the additional benefit of removing those assets from a person’s taxable estate.

The exact strategies employed may vary, depending on the client, the nature of the assets, and the tax regulations that apply to those assets. The ultimate goal is to protect the status of current assets in a manner that is effective, legal and ethical.

Avoiding Probate
If you leave your estate to your loved ones using a will, everything you own will pass through probate.  The process is expensive, time-consuming and open to the public.  The probate court is in control of the process until the estate has been settled and distributed.  If you are married and have children, you want to make certain that your surviving family has immediate access to cash to pay for living expenses while your estate is being settled.  It is not unusual for the probate courts to freeze assets for weeks or even months while trying to determine the proper disposition of the estate. Your surviving spouse may be forced to apply to the probate court for needed cash to pay current living expenses. You can imagine how stressful this process can be.   With proper planning, your assets can pass on to your loved ones without undergoing probate, in a manner that is quick, inexpensive and private.
 
Providing for Minor Children
It is important that your estate plan address issues regarding the upbringing of your children.  If your children are young, you may want to consider implementing a plan that will allow your surviving spouse to devote more attention to your children, without the burden of work obligations.  You may also want to provide for special counseling and resources for your spouse if you believe they lack the experience or ability to handle financial and legal matters.  You should also discuss with your attorney the possibility of both you and your spouse dying simultaneously, or within a short duration of time.  A contingency plan should provide for persons you’d like to manage your assets as well as the guardian you’d like to nominate for the upbringing of your children.  The person, or trustee in charge of the finances need not be the same person as the guardian.  In fact, in many situations, you may want to purposely designate different persons to maintain a system of checks and balances.  Otherwise, the decision as to who will manage your finances and raise your children will be left to a court of law.  Even if you are lucky enough to have the person or persons you would have wanted selected by the court, they may have undue burdens and restrictions placed on them by the court, such as having to provide annual accounting.
  
Planning for Death Taxes
The IRS will want to review your estate at death to ensure you don’t owe them that one final tax: the federal estate tax.  Whether there will be any tax to pay depends on the size of your estate and how your estate plan works.  Many states have their own separate estate and inheritance taxes that you need to be aware of. There are many effective strategies that can be implemented to reduce or eliminate death taxes, but you must start the planning process early in order to implement many of these plans.
 
Charitable Bequests – Planned Giving
Do you want to benefit a charitable organization or cause?  Your estate plan can provide for such organizations in a variety of ways, either during your lifetime or at your death.  Depending on how your planned giving plan is set up, it may also let you receive a stream of income for life, earn higher investment yield, or reduce your capital gains or estate taxes.
 
A well-crafted estate plan should provide for your loved ones in an effective and efficient manner by avoiding guardianship during your lifetime, probate at death, estate taxes and unnecessary delays.  You should consult a qualified estate planning attorney to review your family and financial situation, your goals and explain the various options available to you.   Once your estate plan is in place, you will have peace of mind knowing that you have provided for yourself and your family in case the worst happens.

Providing for Pets
Have you seriously considered what will become of your faithful companion – your beloved pet – upon your death or disability? If not, now is the time.

One of the main goals of estate planning is to provide for your loved ones, and for many of us, “loved ones” includes our pets. While you can always ask a friend or relative to look out for your pet, they aren’t legally obligated to unless you set up an estate plan for this eventuality. By statute in Oklahoma, as part of your estate plan you can create a trust to insure that your pet is cared for when you are no longer able. The trust can designate a third party who will have the power to enforce the terms of the trust – to compel the caretaker or trustee to use the trust funds to care for your pet. This legally insures that your pet receives the care it deserves, even when you are unable to personally meet its needs.

 


The Attorneys at Bailey and Poarch assist clients throughout Cleveland County, McClain County, and Oklahoma County. We serve all of the surrounding areas, including but not limited to Norman, Moore, Noble, Blanchard, Newcastle, Purcell, Lexington, Slaughterville, Little Axe, Washington, Oklahoma City, Cleveland County, McClain County, and Oklahoma County, OK.



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301 E. Eufaula, Norman, OK 73069
| Phone: 405-329-6600

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