estate tax

Our Most Popular Estate Planning Blog Posts of 2018

Our Most Popular Estate Planning Blog Posts of 2018

The end of the year is always a great time to reflect on life and to commit yourself to improvement in the year to come. (And to create some awesome estate planning New Year’s resolutions!)

We recently wrote about the importance of using this time to review your estate plan. But estate planning is a big and often complicated topic. To help you think about estate planning and the issues you may face in the future, here are our posts from 2018 that readers found the most useful:

1. What is the Difference Between a Will and a Trust?

Wills and Trusts are two of the most common (and most well-known) estate planning documents. But what are the differences between them? What are their relative advantages and disadvantages? In our most popular post of the year, we explain the differences (and similarities) between a last will and testament and a living trust.

2. 4 Tips to Identify Undue Influence

In Oklahoma, undue influence consists of taking an unfair advantage of another's weakness of mind or body or the use of authority to procure an unfair advantage over someone. This post explains how undue influence can occur in estate planning and how you can identify and avoid it.

11 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

11 Estate Planning New Year's Resolutions

There’s nothing quite like the new year to make you think of fresh possibilities and new beginnings.

There’s also nothing quite like way too much turkey, wine, and football over the holidays to make you realize that you should maybe consider some lifestyle changes.

You have probably already started on your list of new year’s resolutions for 2019: read more, get a gym membership (and actually use it this time), spend more time with family, etc. And those are great resolutions. “New year, new me” and all that jazz.

But there is one more goal you should add to your list: organize your estate plan.

While most resolutions are about helping your self, an estate plan is about helping your loved ones. To make it easier for you to set your affairs in order, we created this handy list of 11 Estate Planning Resolutions for 2019:

1. Execute a Trust and/or a Will

You, like a majority of Americans, may not have a living trust or a last will and testament. You may not even know what those documents are. Which one is better? Which one is right for you? What are the differences between a will and a trust?

Both a trust and a will control what happens to your estate — your property, your “stuff” — after your death. However, there is one huge difference between the two: a trust avoids probate, while a will does not.

Yes, even if you have a will, your estate must still go through probate after your death.

Remember that there are two main sides to estate planning: (1) What happens to your “stuff” when you die and (2) who takes care of your self when you become incapacitated. You can solve the first part of that equation in 2019 by creating a trust or a will.

Get Our FREE 2018 Estate Planning Checklist

Get Our FREE 2018 Estate Planning Checklist

Prepare yourself to be shocked: 2018 is almost over.

If you’re like me, you’re looking forward to a few weeks of Christmas carols, football, family, bowl games, presents, and (best of all) football.

This is also a great time to look back on the year that was:

Perhaps you started a new job or got a raise; maybe you made an addition (by birth or marriage) or subtraction (by death or divorce) to the family; or maybe you purchased a house, received a windfall inheritance, or started a new business.

Life can change a lot in a year.

But do those life changes mean you need to make changes to your estate plan?

To help you answer that question, we have put together a 10-question checklist to review your estate plan.

IRS Raises Estate and Gift Tax Limits for 2019

IRS Raises Estate and Gift Tax Limits for 2019

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently announced that the estate and gift tax exemption is increasing next year: up from $11.18 million per individual in 2018 to $11.4 million in 2019.

This means that if an individual dies in 2019, she can leave $11.4 million to heirs and pay no federal estate tax. Using a concept called estate tax portability, a married couple can shield double that amount, $22.8 million, from estate taxes.

The IRS also confirmed that the annual gift exclusion amount for 2019 remains at $15,000 per individual per year, unchanged from 2018. This means you can give $15,000 to as many people you want (me, for instance) each year without filing a gift tax return.

Now that we have these big announcements out of the way, let’s unpack what all this fun information actually means.

9 Signs It's Time to Update Your Estate Plan

9 Signs It's Time to Update Your Estate Plan

You finally took the plunge and created an estate plan. Wonderful. Awesome. High five. But now that you have a plan, how often do you need to revisit or update it?

Rather than updating your estate plan every X number of years, we recommend revisiting and (potentially) revising it whenever you experience a significant life change. A will or trust you signed years ago might no longer reflect what you care about.

Consider reviewing and/or updating your estate plan if you have experienced any of these changes:

Do I need to pay inheritance taxes?

Do I need to pay inheritance taxes?

Do you want to pay less in taxes?

Of course you do. I would be worried if you wanted to pay more in taxes...

The question is HOW you can pay less in taxes. Here's one way: estate planning.

A good estate plan can help you minimize your tax burden. Specifically, estate planning can impact (1) income taxes, (2) inheritance taxes, and (3) estate taxes.

Most people are familiar with income taxes. However, they are less familiar with estate taxes; and many people have no idea that inheritance taxes even exist. So it comes as no surprise that one of the most common questions I get from prospective clients is:

"Do I need to pay inheritance taxes?"

It is a good question and is usually accompanied by a number of other, related questions:

  • What, exactly, is an inheritance tax?

  • Is an inheritance tax the same thing as an estate tax?

  • How can I avoid having to pay an inheritance tax?

This blog post will answer these questions, give you a better understanding of the difference between inheritance taxes and estate taxes, and explain how those laws operate in Oklahoma.

Estate Tax Portability in a Nutshell

Estate Tax Portability in a Nutshell

In a world of computers that fit in your pocket and phones on your wrist, "portability" is all the rage. And for the last six years, it has been all the rage in estate planning circles as well — except "portability" in this context has nothing to do with how small something is.

What is estate tax portability?

As of January 1, 2018, the estate tax exemption for individuals is $11.2 million, adjusted for inflation. In other words, if your assets are worth $11.2 million or less at the time of your death (and you have not used any of your combined estate and gift tax exemption), your estate owes no estate tax. But upon the death of the first spouse, the surviving spouse can elect to use the deceased spouse's unused exemption amount (also known as "DSUE"), effectively doubling the estate tax exemption for married couples to $22.4 million. This election is known as estate tax portability.

Use RMDs to Fund a 529 Account

Use RMDs to Fund a 529 Account

A 529 account (or 529 plan) is a tax-advantaged savings plan designed to encourage saving for future college costs. The different types and mechanics of 529 plans are best saved for another blog post. For now, the important thing to know is that there are three main benefits to using your RMDs to fund a 529 plan:

1. Earnings grow tax-free.

Usually, you have to pay income taxes on RMDs. If you then invest the RMD, you will likely pay a second round of taxes on those earnings down the road. On the other hand, if you contribute your RMD to a grandchild's 529 account, you will still pay income tax on the RMD, but the money you invest in the 529 account will grow tax-deferred. And if the money is later used for qualified education expenses, the entire amount is available tax-free.

What is Asset Protection?

What is Asset Protection?

With increases in the federal estate tax exemption ($5,600,000 for single individuals or $11,200,000 for married couples in 2018) and repeal of the Oklahoma estate tax, estate-tax planning is becoming a non-issue for all but the largest estates in Oklahoma. Instead, a greater concern for most people is protecting their assets from lawsuit judgments.

Why is Asset Protection necessary?

One car wreck, for example, can have a devastating effect on your estate. What if someone is injured in the wreck and sues you? Will your insurance cover it? Your car insurance may include $300,000 in liability insurance; however, if the accident seriously injures or kills someone, a lawsuit judgment could be $1 million dollars or more. In that case, you could be personally responsible for damages above the $300,000 in liability insurance.

Reduce Taxes by Making a Charitable Distribution

Reduce Taxes by Making a Charitable Distribution

If you have not already taken your required minimum distribution (RMD) for 2017, you may want to consider making a qualified charitable distribution (QCD) through your IRA. Of course, before doing so, you want to know the answer to one important question: Would you benefit from making a QCD? If you fall into one of the following categories, the answer may be "yes":

1. You have a high adjusted gross income.

Some expenses are deductible only to the extent they exceed a certain percentage of adjusted gross income (AGI). For instance, miscellaneous itemized deductions must exceed 2% of AGI to be deductible; medical expenses and casualty losses must exceed 10%. QCDs can reduce AGI by taking the place of otherwise taxable RMDs, meaning it may be possible to lower your threshold for deducting certain expenses.