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Estate Planning for Pets! Oklahoma Pet Trusts.

There is a popular trend among the states right now in estate planning law to allow people to make preparations for their pets in their will or trusts.  Oklahoma has recently joined the trend. Oklahoma now allows pet trusts since a relatively recent House Bill1641 that was signed into law and became effective August 27, 2010. If you want to read the statute in its entirety, click here.

A brief description of the law is essentially that the law has created a new section of the Oklahoma trust code that now legalizes trusts for the care of pets. The pet trust is terminated when there is no more living pets under the trust, so you can have a pet trust for more than one pet and it will exist until all the pets are deceased.  The statute then gives a description of what the rules for governing a pet trusts,  including compensation for the trustee, accounting requirements and provisions for terminating the trust. You can pick the trustee or pet caretaker, and trustees can be provided with compensation for administering the pet trust.

The code also states that the “The trustee may employ agents or contractors to provide any care and pay for the care from the assets of the trust. The trustee shall also ensure that the property of a trust authorized by this section is applied only to its intended use.”

The Oklahoma statute states that if you trust is below $20,000, the trust is exempt from fees, unless a court says otherwise. If the trust has a value of $20,000 or more, you will have to pay fees that include filing fees, periodic accounting, separate maintenance funds, and registration fees.

In the pet trusts, you can have complete control over your pet’s future needs, including their food, schedules, and even their veterinarian. The trust will be like most trusts: revocable, so you can make it go away or amend it at any time. You can make the trust be activated if you become disabled or incapacitated, which a will cannot do.

Overall, it is a good step forward in the area of pet estate planning.

Skillern Law Firm, PLLC can help you make preparations for caring for your pets when you are gone! Call or email us today.

The Season of Charitable Giving

In the season of giving, clients often ask us about charitable giving and its tax implications. There are several options to those individuals with a generous heart. Charitable Foundation Trusts, or “private foundations” with Tax-Exempt status are expensive and time-consuming to create. Individuals with thousands of dollars to donate, however, would be wise to create a private foundation or public charity for tax reasons. If you are not one of the lucky individuals with thousands of dollars, however, charitable giving is a admirable choice. Charitable donations can also reduce tax liability. Certain kinds of gifting, however, is income and estate tax deductible, so lets go over the the IRS’s guidelines.

To take advantage of the income tax benefits of charitable giving, a donation must meet requirements established by the IRS. These include these rules: 

  1. The donor cannot benefit from the donation. This includes giving to foundations or organizations where you or your family can benefit, or you are directly benefiting.
  2. The donor must be able to substantiate the donation. You must be able to keep a written record or bank record of the donation that you could prove as valid to the IRS.
  3. The donation must be made to or for the benefit of a qualified charitable organization, and;
  4. The donation may not exceed the current statutory ceiling. As of right now, the amount of your deduction for charitable contributions is limited to 50% of your adjusted gross income.

Now, let’s make a distinction between the income tax and the estate/gift tax sides to charitable giving. If it goes to charity, it can be deductible from your estate. If it goes to loved ones, it cannot. Remember, the donor cannot benefit from the donation, and giving to your family is seen as a benefit to the IRS. Pretty simple distinction, right? The gift-tax limit, as of right now, is $13,000. You can give up to that limit to a family member or friend and not pay tax on the gift. If it goes above that – you’re out of luck and the gift and tax must be reported to the IRS.

Another part of this complicated IRS tax equation is instance in which you can give to charity and it will be deductible if  the charitable gift it is made as part of your will or trust. This is why people like Bill Gates and Warren Buffet can give their kids up to 5 million dollars – and pay no estate tax if they give their other billions to charity through their will or trust. You can give after you are deceased through your will or trust, and not have to pay estate tax! While there is no current estate tax in Oklahoma right now, it will likely come back in the future, so you should consider this when drafting your will or trust.

While it is the season of giving, you can give wisely and help your estate by using tax-savings benefits that the IRS has set up for generous individuals. Please consult with us today if you are interested in creating a private foundation, or would like to create or put charitable givings in your will or trust to save your beneficiaries some taxes in the future.

Don’t forget to read other posts at the Tulsa Estate Planning Blog.

Why Should I Get A Will Now?

The more clients and friends that we talk to, the more we see why so many people put off writing their will.  No one especially wants to think about their own future death, and no one really wants to plan for it. In reality, however, everyone needs to have a will prepared, even at a young age.  There are a multitude of reasons to consider, and any reputable wills and trusts lawyer should be able to go through the factors with you to make certain that you are protecting your assets as well as the people you love.

First off, it’s obvious people do not want to think about death. However, the reality is that it is inevitable. This does not only include your death, but your family members, such as your grandmother, daughter, son, and parents. If you, or your (especially older) family members have not prepared a will, then you are jeopardizing both your own wishes and the outcome for those you love.  This could be especially important for parents.

If you haven’t had a will prepared, then your children’s future can be in serious jeopardy.  For example, many assume that their property will pass automatically to their children, but the Oklahoma courts may have other ideas.  Other family members, like a new spouse or a child you gave for adoption, may go to the courts and inherit money and heirlooms that you intended for your children.

The most extreme and important factor to consider will likely be that of child guardianship. If you have children, or intend to have children, a will allows you to ensure that your children are raised by people you trust and in a way you deem appropriate. A will allows you to specify their guardians, should you die.  Without a will, the courts will decide who will take control of your children should you pass away, and who wants a court to decide the future of their children’s care?

Sadly, another case where a will is needed is when both spouses being killed at the same time.  In a circumstance like that, there is no surviving spouse to take care of the children, explain what should happen to them, nor have a say in the distribution of assets.  As expected, the courts will have more of a say in the distribution of your estate than you would probably want.

Creating a will doesn’t have to be a exasperating, complicated activity. A will is not generally very expensive, and a trustworthy wills and trust lawyer can tell you your exact benefits in creating a will.  Skillern Law Firm can help you create your will, and any other estate planning document you may need to ensure your family and assets are safe from court interference. Undoubtedly, it is not ideal to spend your time imagining what would happen to your family and assets after you have passed away, however, doing so now can make an incredible difference later.

If you are interested in other estate planning documents, or how they can help you, read other posts on Tulsa Estate Planning Blog.

Stepchildren, adopted children, and half-blood relatives: No Child Left Behind.

Oklahoma has some unusual laws when it comes to step-children and half-blood relatives, especially in the intestate inheritance laws. Just as a reminder, intestate merely means that the person who passed away died without a will, and so the state’s inheritance laws are in effect. Oklahoma’s statute, Okla. Stat. tit. 84, § 213 (1994), is the state’s Intestacy law/code, if you are interested in reading the statute yourself.

Stepchildren are not able to inherit through the intestate system in Oklahoma. Only blood children are able to take from the estate. It’s as simple as that. If you want your stepchildren to inherit part of your estate, you need to get estate planning in place (a will is a good place to start), so that they are able to. Otherwise, your blood children, spouse, and other blood relatives will take from the estate.

In Oklahoma, half-blood children have their own special rules, which can be viewed as harsh. Half-blood children/relatives are not be able to inherit “ancestral property,” but are able to inherit all other property and assets. “Ancestral property” is property that the decedent (half relative who passed away) acquired by gift, devise, or inheritance. In other words, half-blood children or relations will not be able to receive any intestate property that was given to the decedent by an ancestor who is not also an ancestor of the half-blood relation. Okla. Stat. tit. 84, §222. However, half-blood relatives are able to inherit ancestral property when full-blood relatives are more remotely decended. See In Re Estate of Robbs. Therefore, a half-blood would not be able to inherit ancestral property if there is whole-blood kindred of the same or closer degree of relative. For example, if A & B were full blood relatives, and B & C were half-blood relatives, A would receive the B’s entire ancestral estate, leaving C to receive 1/2 or whatever portion he was entitled to without ancestral property included. Half-blood intestate inheritance can be a little confusing, and is a major source of probate litigation in Oklahoma. If you have any questions, feel free to call us today for any explanation of the law and to see how you can avoid this problem with a will.

Adopted children in Oklahoma have an advantage not available in many states to them: double inheritance. In Oklahoma, an adopted child can inherit from and through his/her natural parents as well as their adopted parents. The converse is not available, however. The adopted parents cannot inherit through the child they gave up for adoption. Adopted children, therefore, will be able to inherit through intestacy just as if the child was a maternal or paternal child.

Skillern Law Firm can help craft all different types of wills, trusts, and other estate planning documents that allow your children (of all sorts) inherit your property without worrying about Oklahoma Intestate Law. Please call us today for more information.

Estate Planning for Everyone

A few years ago, my mother sent me the  Jessica’s morning affirmation video. I haven’t woken up every morning with Jessica’s joie de vivre, this morning I did. My whole house is great. I can do anything good. I realized that I can really make a difference for same-sex couples with estate planning. I’m not as sure about my hairs or haircuts, but that’s a moot point.

The actual point: estate planning can solve many problems that the law creates for same-sex couples living in states that do notrecognize same-sex marriages.

Same-sex couples are  not able to benefit from inheritance laws that enable spouses to take property under homestead laws. Oklahoma intestacy laws would not allow for a same-sex spouses to inherit anything. Therefore it is much more imperative for same-sex couples to invest in estate planning than hetero couples.

Both wills and trusts can establish inheritance for same-sex couples. Trusts offer basically the same inheritance options that wills do (please see our previous post), with the added benefit of privacy. Wills are open to the public when they are entered into the probate court after death, but trusts are only public in so much as that one has been created.

Same-sex families that adopt face unique child custody issues facing the death of one parent. Oklahoma laws allow only one parent of same-sex couples to be the adoptive parent. Parental rights follow this parent. If that parent passes away, then the other parent has no legal parental rights over the child. A will or trust can remedy the situation by specifying who will raise the child after death.

This is not to say that estate planning is a substitute for marriage. I in no way want to insinuate that signing a trust document provides the same joy that saying I do ever will. However, this is an option that Oklahoma provides that same-sex couples should take advantage of today. Skillern Law Firm  can set up a trust for you and your spouse to help you with your estate planning needs.

Check out other posts at Tulsa Estate Planning Blog.

SCOTUS

The Supreme Court of the United States’ (SCOTUS) October session started yesterday, October 3rd. I was looking forward to this term, since there are a lot of interesting and important cases coming up on the Court’s docket. There are 48 cases on the Court’s docket thus far. There are, however, plenty of important cases being petitioned to be taken by the court. One of the most newsworthy is the ObamaCare lawsuits that are petitioning to be heard in front of the SCOTUS. So far, the case has not said whether or not it would be willing to take that case.

I have to say, I love listening to oral arguments. Last year, the Supreme Court started posting their oral arguments of the week each Friday on their website. I would suggest you check them out, if you are so interested, here: http://www.supremecourt.gov.  This was a big deal for the Supreme Court. The (mostly conservative) Justices have always disliked media in courtrooms, even disallowing cameras in lower courts (re: the Prop 8 California gay-marriage case). So, when the Court started releasing oral arguments the week they were argued, I was estatic! In the past, they have released important cases’ oral arguments the day they were released, but the rest of the lesser-known cases’ arguments were not released until after the term was up.  It’s nice to be able to listen to them the week they are argued.

Anyways, for more information on the Court’s new term, read updates, and get analysis on the Court’s case, check out my favorite Supreme Court blog, http://www.scotusblog.com.

Also, if you are interested to read oral arguments from past Supreme Court terms, check out http://www.oyez.org.

Check out other posts at Tulsa Estate Planning Blog!

Welcome to the Tulsa Estate Planning Blog and the Skillern Law Firm!

Welcome to Tulsa Estate Planning Blog, created by the offices of the Skillern Law Firm, PLLC in Tulsa, Oklahoma. If you’ve read our profile over there on the right, then you already know a little about us and a little about what we want this blog to be about.

Penni Skillern, Esq. has had a passion for helping Tulsans with their estate planning needs for a very long time.  The ofices of Skillern Law Firm concentrates on the areas of  wills, trusts, estate planning, business law, and  probate law. We feel confident that we can translate some of our knowledge, and what we learn on the way while we are practicing, onto the blog. We hope this blog helps you in your questions about wills, trusts, real estate law, and business associations formation, as well as just give you general knowledge about some other types of laws we find interesting, but don’t necessarily practice in.

Please feel free to call the offices of Skillern Law Firm for any and all of your estate planning and business incorporation needs.

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