Jul 24

Out of Office for Thursday afternoon and Friday

I will be out of office for the remainder of this week. It is time for the Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association annual tradeshow and meeting!

I am a strict advocate of practicing what you preach and I always like to say that you should be involved in the associations which further your experiences in life. I am an attorney that specializes in estate planning, but those of you who know me also know that I farm and ranch with my parents northeast of Altus. The Oklahoma Cattlemen’s Association is a great group that provides support for cattlemen and I am proud to be a member.

If you need me, then send an email and I will get you a response next week.

Jul 23

From the IRS: Top 10 Tax Facts if You Sell Your Home

Do you know that if you sell your home and make a profit, the gain may not be taxable? That’s just one key tax rule that you should know. Here are ten facts to keep in mind if you sell your home this year.

1. If you have a capital gain on the sale of your home, you may be able to exclude your gain from tax. This rule may apply if you owned and used it as your main home for at least two out of the five years before the date of sale.

2. There are exceptions to the ownership and use rules. Some exceptions apply to persons with a disability. Some apply to certain members of the military and certain government and Peace Corps workers. For details seePublication 523, Selling Your Home.

3. The most gain you can exclude is $250,000. This limit is $500,000 for joint returns. The Net Investment Income Tax will not apply to the excluded gain.

4. If the gain is not taxable, you may not need to report the sale to the IRS on your tax return.

5. You must report the sale on your tax return if you can’t exclude all or part of the gain. And you must report the sale if you choose not to claim the exclusion. That’s also true if you get Form 1099-S, Proceeds From Real Estate Transactions. If you report the sale you should review theQuestions and Answers on the Net Investment Income Tax on IRS.gov.

6. Generally, you can exclude the gain from the sale of your main home only once every two years.

7. If you own more than one home, you may only exclude the gain on the sale of your main home. Your main home usually is the home that you live in most of the time.

8. If you claimed the first-time homebuyer credit when you bought the home, special rules apply to the sale. For more on those rules see Publication 523.

9. If you sell your main home at a loss, you can’t deduct it.

10. After you sell your home and move, be sure to give your new address to the IRS. You can send the IRS a completed Form 8822, Change of Address, to do this.

Jul 22

Value of family

I am often asked, “Who should I put in charge of my affairs after I die?”

My response most often is “Who do you trust the most?”

While about 85% of my clients choose to use a family member (most often a child), I do see families that do not trust their children with this responsibility (or want them to bear the burden). If this is the case, then I generally recommend a bank, trust company or trusted advisor. These entities would be paid, but would look solely at the directions you leave them in your last will or trust agreement and then administer the property according to those directions. A paid Trustee should never let emotions get in the way, which may not be the case with siblings.

While a family member may be willing to serve as a fiduciary for free, a trust company or professional will generally charge about 2.5% upfront and then collect an annual fee of about 1% thereafter. So, in simple terms, that could be said to be the monetary value of family in estate planning and trust terms. Just a friendly little aside from your local estate planning attorney in Altus.

Jul 22

D.C. Circuit Strikes Down Heart of Obamacare

A ruling that came out this morning dealt a very severe blow to the Affordable Care Act. The ruling in Halbig v. Burwell states that persons who applied for insurance through the federal exchange on healthcare.gov are ineligible for subsidies of their premiums.

This stems from the actual language of the law stating that subsidies are available for people enrolled through “an Exchange established by the State.” Since 34 states did not create their own exchanges and the federal government, through healthcare.gov, established it for those states, no person in any of those states is eligible for subsidies. Most of the 34 states opting out are Republican states, including our state of Oklahoma and our neighbor Texas.

What does all of this mean? Well, as I am a tax attorney, for me it means that Obamacare just became a lot more budget friendly. The estimate on subsidies that will be cut off are about $36 Billion per year for up to 7.3 million people. (Essentially the vast majority of persons who signed up under the ACA only did so because they would receive subsidies.) The latest CBO report I saw estimated that Obamacare would run a $2 Trillion dollar deficit over the next ten years. If you take out $360 billion+, then it cuts the expected deficit by about 20%.

What are the takeaways from this? First, the Congress that passed this hastily in 2010 needs to bear all of the blame. The law was passed by reconciliation through only one party’s votes. As Kevin W. Glass said about the ruling, “You write bad laws, you get bad laws.” Second, it is likely that poorer, healthy enrollees will drop out of the insurance marketplace, electing to pay the “tax” instead. Third, the insurance market will likely have to be directly subsidized, because if this law is not repealed, the whole industry will collapse under the weight of covering bad risk enrollees.


Jul 21

Planning for vacation

As we wind down on the last few days of summer, it is probably in some people’s plans to take a vacation. While you think of all that you will do as you travel, it is also a great idea to think of what needs to be done before you go.

A couple of scenarios and solutions you should consider:

  • If this is a trip without the kids, have you given the person you are leaving as caretaker a power of attorney for the children? If a child has to seek medical help and the parent or legal guardian is not present, there may not be anyone to authorize his/her care.
  • Also, if something were to happen to you, do you have the provisions for who you want to be guardian over the child and over your property you are leaving him/her?
  • If something happens to you on the trip, will your agents/relatives be able to access documents that show who you want to act to make medical decisions for you; or suppose you are tossed in jail and have to get bail money out of your bank account, can your agent get that access with you gone?
  • If you were to pass away, will your last wishes be made known or have you locked them away in a safe deposit box only you know about?

Vacations should be fun and a time of escape. Make sure that you have all these worries squared away before leaving on your trip. Call for a free consultation about your estate planning to put your mind at ease and enjoy your holiday.