real estate

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.

Legal Briefs: What is a transfer-on-death deed?

Legal Briefs: What is a transfer-on-death deed?

Most people are familiar with deeds. Though they come in many different varieties, deeds convey (transfer) interests in real estate. Generally speaking, a conveyance is effective as soon as a deed is signed. With a transfer-on-death deed, however, the conveyance is effective only after the grantor (the person conveying the real estate) dies.

What are the benefits of a transfer-on-death deed?

The main benefit of a transfer-on-death deed is that the conveyance can avoid probate. Let's say Joe wants to leave his house to his son, Dan. If Joe provides in his Will that the house should go to Dan, the Will must still go through probate before Dan can get the house. But if Joe signs a transfer-on-death deed, all Dan will need to do is file an affidavit (and a death certificate) with the county clerk to obtain title to the house.

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.

What is stepped-up basis?

What is stepped-up basis?

"Stepped-up basis" refers to a tax rule that minimizes or eliminates capital gains tax liability. Say, for example, your Uncle Buck owns Apple stock. He purchased 100 shares of the stock when it was worth $1/share. In tax lingo, his cost to buy the stock is known as his "basis." Apple stock is now worth about $170/share. If Uncle Buck sold his shares today, he would have to pay a capital gains tax on the $169/share appreciation in the value of his stock. Similarly, if Uncle Buck gifted you the stocks today, you would "inherit" his basis, meaning you would have to pay capital gains tax on the $169/share appreciation if you sold the stock tomorrow.

But let's say Uncle Buck decided to hold onto his shares. He placed them in a trust that names you as the sole beneficiary. If Uncle Buck died today, leaving you the stocks, the Internal Revenue Code provides that the value of the stock today (Uncle Buck's date of death) is your new basis in the stock. In other words, your basis is "stepped-up" from $1/share to $170/share. So if you turned around and sold the Apple stock for $170/share, you would pay no capital gains tax. 

3 Ways Tax Reform Could Impact Your Estate Plan

3 Ways Tax Reform Could Impact Your Estate Plan

Yesterday, House Republicans unveiled their tax reform legislation, called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. (You can read the full text of the bill here.) Although the tax plan proposes numerous changes to our current system, we wanted to review a few that could impact your estate plan.

1. Repealing the Estate Tax

We have written previously about the history of the estate tax, but pretty soon the estate tax itself could be history. Under the GOP proposal, the individual estate tax exemption would nearly double (to about $11 million) immediately -- and the federal tax would be repealed entirely in 2024. What does this mean for you? Very likely, nothing. Only 0.2% of estates owe an estate tax. However, for those who do (or may) owe an estate tax, elimination of this 40% tax could mean a difference of thousands or even millions of dollars.