The Todd Cone Law Office works closely with families in an effort to examine the assets owned by an individual or married couple, consider their objectives for dividing assets at death, and minimize the taxes paid as a result of either one or both of them.
Estate Planning with our office is more than just drafting a Will. We will sit down with you and consider the type of assets you may hold, your personal desires regarding division of the assets, and any tax considerations applicable, to ensure that your desires are carried out at death.
At its core, a Will has traditionally been the foundation of any estate plan. In addition to the Will, someone should consider powers of attorney for both finances and health care, a Living Will, which instructs your doctor as to your desires in the event you require life support treatment, trusts, life insurance, non-probate assets, etc. in their overall estate plan.
Wills can take a variety of forms and can be used for a variety of purposes in Oklahoma. In general, however, a Will is used to spell out how a person wants their assets divided at the time of their death. It may also address the payment of debts, conditions upon certain gifts to certain individuals, etc.
The vast majority of Americans are familiar with the concept of a Will, and while the majority of Americans understand the need for a Will, a large percentage never make one or consult a wills lawyer to draft one for them. The person who creates a Will is generally known as the “Testator” or “Testatrix.” A simple Will contains basic provisions related to the disposition of a person’s estate upon their death. The Will also appoints someone to handle the Testator’s final affairs after death. Although the simple Will does not address estate tax concerns, it is the most appropriate option for someone whose estate does not present estate tax concerns.
Not surprisingly, many people have questions about whether or not a handwritten Will (called a “holographic will”) can be upheld as valid. A holographic will requires very specific elements, without which, the handwritten Will is not considered effective and will not be used to dispose of the Testator’s assets at death.
The use of Trusts as part of traditional estate planning is a growing trend in many states across the U.S., including Oklahoma.
The concepts of Wills and trusts combine when you consider the creation of a Testamentary Trust. These trusts are created under your Will and will control the management of your assets after your death. These trusts have a wide array of uses, but they are very often used to provide for the management of assets for minors and young children in the event they might become entitled to receive property under a Will.
Revocable Living Trusts:
In recent years, the use of Revocable Living Trusts as a substitute to traditional estate planning has exploded in many states. In thinking about trusts, some of the following basic terms may help:
- Trustee: The person designated in the Trust Agreement to take possession of the trust assets and manage those assets. He must also preserve and manage the assets according to the provisions in the Trust agreement.
- Trust Agreement: The Trust Agreement is the document that creates the Trust and sets out the provisions related to the Trust. For instance, it will generally designate the trustee, the beneficiaries, and the purposes of the Trust. It will also typically include provisions designed to guide the trustee in fulfilling his duties.
- Grantor: The person(s) who creates the Trust Agreement. In order for the Grantor to create a valid trust, he must designate a trustee and a beneficiary. He must also transfer assets into the Trust.
- Beneficiary: The Trust Beneficiary is the person(s) who receives the benefit of the assets in the Trust.
These trusts are created during your lifetime. The Grantor, with the advice and counsel of a lawyer, creates a Trust Agreement, designating the Trustee, the Beneficiaries and specifically setting forth how the Grantor’s assets are to be managed both during life and after death. The revocable living trust may be amended and changed at any time during the lifetime of the Grantor. The trust exists outside the estate of the Grantor, allowing all of the assets to pass to the beneficiaries without the necessity of probate, saving time, costs and in many cases, much in the way of estate taxes.
Powers of Attorney:
Anytime that someone is looking at their estate plan, they should consider the creation of powers of attorney to appoint someone to act for them in the event of their incapacity. In Oklahoma, powers of attorney are used to allow you to designate another person or persons to make medical and financial decisions for you in the event that you are alive but unable to make those decisions for you. Although the powers of attorney cease to be effective once someone dies, they are critical to have in place if something happens causing incapacity prior to death.
In the wake of the Terry Schiavo controversy, the concept of Living Wills has become very important to many people. The Living Will addresses your desires regarding life-support treatment in the event that you are not able to communicate these decisions to a doctor.