Jul 30

Touching tribute from a funeral today

The attached picture is from the program from the funeral of Ann Nordman, a long-time Altus resident. She had suffered from dementia and had been in a nursing facility for the past five and a half years. Her husband, Will, is a good friend and faithfully visited her daily. Ann will be missed by those who knew her.

The ode to lasting love










Jul 25

Definitions for estate planning – 3

This is a continuation of two previous posts. The first addressed wills and intestacy, the second addressed trusts and powers of attorney. This post will focus on gift and estate tax issues.

Terms related to Estate Tax

Federal Estate Tax – The tax on the net value of an estate enforced by the Internal Revenue Service. The tax is imposed on any amount over the Unified Credit after all deductions are taken. The current tax rate is a flat 35% on any amount over the Unified Credit. In 2013 and thereafter, the tax rate will be at least 41% and could be up to 55% of the amount exceeding the Unified Credit.

Unified Credit – The amount that can be passed transfer-tax (estate and gift) free by an individual. In 2012 the amount is $5,120,000. In 2013, the unified credit will decrease to $1,000,000. In simple terms, if you give away $1,000,000 during life, then your estate tax unified credit decreases by the $1,000,000 given during life.

Oklahoma Estate Tax – This was repealed in 2010, so there is currently no estate tax that must be paid to Oklahoma. This state estate tax should not come back into effect, but may; stay tuned for updates.

Common Deductions against the Estate Tax:  Marital Deduction – This deduction is unlimited, meaning a deceased person can give an unlimited amount to his or her spouse and the amount given will not occur taxes at the first death. If proper planning is not done, this deduction can result in higher taxes at the surviving spouses death. Charitable Deduction – This deduction is unlimited, as well. Any amount going to a qualified charity is not subject to taxation. Administrative Expenses – This deduction covers the costs related to closing an estate. State Estate Tax Deduction – The amount paid to the State for state estate taxes.

Terms related to Gift Tax

Federal Gift Tax – The tax imposed on transfers during a person’s life in excess of the Unified Credit. Like the Estate tax, there are unlimited marital and charity gifts. In 2012, the amount of tax is a flat rate of 35% on any amount exceeding the Unified Credit.  In 2013 and thereafter, the tax rate will be at least 41% and could be up to 55% of the amount exceeding the Unified Credit. The Donor has to pay the tax on any taxable gifts. It is not the responsibility of the Donee.

Annual Exclusion Amount – This is the amount that can be passed from one individual to any other individual without having to be reported. The amount is currently $13,000 and is inflation adjusted in $1,000 increments. If you give a gift less than $13,000 then you do not even have to report it. Only if a gift to any one person exceeds $13,000 does a gift tax return have to be filed, and even then it only is deducted from the donor’s Unified Credit.

Jul 23

Definitions for estate planning – 2

This is a continuation of a previous post that defines terms related to estate planning. Previously, we talked about wills and intestacy. Here we will focus on trusts and powers of attorney.

Terms related to Trusts:

Trust – A contract that a grantor writes that binds the trustee to manage the property in the trust for the benefit of the beneficiaries. Trusts can be revocable, which means they can be changed at any time by the creator, or irrevocable, which means the terms will continue as written and cannot be changed (under most circumstances). Terms such as “living” and “inter vivos” typically describe revocable trusts.

Grantor/Trustor/Settlor – The person who writes the Trust and puts in all of the provisions of the Trust.

Trustee – The person named in the Trust who will be in charge of managing the Trust property and must abide by the written terms in the Trust.

Beneficiary – The persons who get the benefit of the trust property. In a typical revocable trust, the creator occupies all three positions: Grantor, Trustee, and Beneficiary.

Terms related to Powers of Attorney

Power of Attorney – A document that nominates an Agent to act on behalf of a Principal. The power of attorney can be very broad (General) or very narrow (Limited or Special). If you are executing one of these for estate planning purposes, then you should ensure the power of attorney is “Durable”, which means it extends beyond the Principal’s incapacity. The use of a power of attorney can typically negate the need for a guardianship or conservatorship.

Principal – The person who creates the power of attorney and nominates the Agent to act on his behalf. The power of attorney is only valid as long as the Principal is alive. Once the Principal dies, either a probate must be initiated or property must pass by other designation.

Agent – The person nominated to act for the Principal. The Agent is under a duty to act in the best interest of the Principal.

Incapacity – This is a disability that renders the Principal unable to understand the consequences of his own actions. This may be the result of a physical disability, mental degradation, or advanced disease. Most documents equate incapacity with incompetency and disability.

Jul 22

Tax returns of presidential candidates

Much ado is being made of Mitt Romney not releasing his whole tax returns and past tax returns. Word has come from his wife that no more will be released. Nancy Pelosi says she will release hers…when she runs for President. Joe Biden has released past returns showing he donated a whopping $319 for charities. So what is the big deal?

My thought is that Mitt Romney should not release his tax returns. The information in it is compliant with the tax laws as passed by Congress, and signed by President Obama. If it were not, then the Romneys would be prosecuted by the Internal Revenue Service for tax evasion.

There really is no sense in releasing any returns. We already have criminal prosecution available for the proper authorities, why do we need it released for everyone to paw through? Let’s focus on the issues this year, rather than distractions.

Jul 20

Definitions for estate planning – 1

Here are a few terms that are used in estate planning. I hope these will help clarify a few things for you, but if you would like to know more, then please call and schedule a complimentary consultation.

Terms related to a Last Will and Testament:

Last Will and Testament – A document that directs a probate court how to distribute any property in an estate of a deceased person. The Will has no effect while the creator is alive. It only gets power once a probate court approves it and authorizes a personal representative.

Testator/Tesatrix – This is the person who created the Will. This term applies while they are alive and after they pass away. (The “tor” or “trix” suffix applies to the masculine or feminine, respectively.)

Executor/Executrix/Personal Representative – This is the person nominated in the Will to be in charge of the probate process. The Executor has the responsibility of paying creditors, finding and managing property, and ulitmately distribution to the persons named as devisees/legatees of the estate.

Devisee – A person named in a Will that will inherit real property like land or minerals.

Legatee – A person named in a Will that will inherit personal property like cash, stock, cars, or household goods.

Heir-at-law -  A person that is related to the testator. The heirs are the people most closely related at the time of death according to state law. For more information, see the Intestate definitions below.

Terms related to Intestate administration

Intestate – This is when a person dies with property, but without a will. Basically the State writes the deceased’s plan for him by setting priorities for an administrator and heirs-at-law.

Administrator – The person who is in charge of the intestate estate. The Administrator has the responsibility of paying creditors, finding and managing property, and ulitmately distribution to the persons named as heirs of the estate. The priority is spouse first, followed by children, grandchildren, parents, siblings, children of siblings, all the way to creditors.

Heirs-at-law – The people who will inherit from the intestate estate. The spouse is considered first, then children. If no children, then parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, and many other relations. If no kin can be found, then property goes to the State.