Feb 29

Oklahoma takes step forward in allowing liability protection for farmers/ranchers

I was informed by my local State Senator this past week that an issue I wanted addressed by our new Governor and her administration has been resolved. The best part is the resolution will greatly help farmers and ranchers in Oklahoma.

A little background: The Oklahoma State Constitution provides for the exemption from ad valorem taxation of household goods and livestock employed in the support of a family. Okla. Const. Art. 10, Sec. 8A. The previous Attorney General issued an opinion on this provision that stated “in support of a family” was limited to farmers and/or ranchers that owned the livestock in their individual name or as sole propreitorships. If livestock were owned through a limited liability company, a family partnership or a corporation, the livestock should have been subject to the County’s ad valorem taxes.

The conflict that arises here is that all of the forms of ownership that allowed for exemption from property taxes would subject the farmer or rancher to unlimited liability in the event a lawsuit arose. For example, if a fence went down and cattle were out at night and caused a significant automobile accident, the farmer and his insurance would have to pay all judgments that arose from that accident; even to the point of having to sell land, if the judgment far exceeded liability coverage. Under the previous Attorney General ruling, there was no way to limit the liability to just the cattle unless you wanted to pay ad valorem taxes on them.

I was informed that the new Attorney General opinion approves the use of family limited liability entites. The opinion supposedly interprets the clause (in the state Constitution) “in support of the family” to include any entity where a family unit, consisting of common descendents, e.g. father/son, siblings, or cousins, to be exempt from ad valorem taxation on livestock as well. When the opinion is published, I will have more detail. In addition, my local Senator informed me the Legislature is proposing a bill to make this interpretation a statute, rather than just an Attorney General opinion.

If you would like to schedule a consultation to see how you can limit your liability, then call my office at 580-318-8829 to discuss how this law change can affect your family farm.

Brent S. Howard, Esq.



Feb 22

Funding Retirement Accounts Now, for Last Year’s Return

Most individual taxpayers can reduce their taxable income by contributing money to a traditional retirement account (IRA). Contributions to IRAs can be made as late as the first due date of the individual’s income tax return and can be considered retroactive to the previous tax year.

By contributing money to your Traditional IRA before April 15th (or filing your individual tax return, whichever is sooner) most taxpayers get to deduct the contribution amount against last year’s income. The Limits for the IRA deduction are as follows:

If you are 49 years of age or younger, then you can contribute $5,000.

If you are 50 or older, then you can contribute $6,000.

To be eligible to fund an IRA for a particular year, you must have earned income. For IRA purposes only, earned income consists of wages, self-employment income, and alimony. You must also be under 70.5 years of age at the time of the contribution.

The deduction is claimed on your regular Form 1040 of Form 1040A. You do not have to itemize to report this deduction.

The amount of the deduction is phased out for taxpayers who have modified adjusted gross income (MAGI) of more than certain amounts. For single taxpayers and heads of households the MAGI limits are between $56,000 to $66,000. For Married filing jointly, the MAGI limits are between $90,000 to $110,000.

If you are looking to fund your retirement and you meet the above standards, then you should look at making the contribution now so you can take the deduction now instead of waiting until later in the year. The benefit of the deduction now is the time value of money and your use for the remainder of the year.

If you have questions on the above, please do not hesitate to contact my office.

Feb 17

Reminder on Seminar

Just a reminder to everyone that our first complimentary seminar in the Altus area will be on Thursday, February 23rd at 6:00 p.m. at the Francis Herron Seminar Room at Southwest Technology Center.

Shamrock Bank will be providing burgers for everyone in attendance. This seminar will be a great way for you to learn the basics of passing property at someone’s death and the most efficient way to complete the transfers by minimalizing taxes and expenses.

RSVP before 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, February 22 by calling Brent S. Howard at 580-318-8829.

Feb 17

Medicaid Numbers for 2012

Medicaid is the governmental program that pays for long-term care, for those who qualify through three tests: Medical Need Qualification, Income Tests, and Asset Tests. This is different than Medicare, which is available to all seniors once they reach the eligibility age of 65. Medicare will not cover long-term care costs; it is limited to hospital and medical costs that it associates with improvement or rehabilitation, not nursing home or maintenance costs.

For Medicaid qualification in Oklahoma, the rules are a bit complex, but I will try to simplify them as much as possible. The medical need qualification is based on a person’s need for care because he or she is not able to meet his or her own care standards. If someone must go into a nursing home, this is generally met.

The second test is the Income Test. Simply put, if an individual has more than $3,000, then he or she does not qualify, but this can be rearranged with proper planning.

The last test is the Asset Test. If the person is a single individual, then he or she is typically limited to $2,000 in countable assets. If there is a healthy spouse that does not need nursing home care, then there are exemptions for the spouse between $25,000 and $113,640. If the individual tries to shift assets from his or her name, then Medicaid eligibility is delayed one day for every $132.85 transferred within the previous five years.

There is no way that I can give a full detail of the laws that go with Medicaid qualification in a short update, but if you are an individual (or know of an individual) that anticipates long-term care costs to be a major factor in your estate, then I highly recommend you contact a qualified elderlaw attorney, such as myself, to learn how to protect your legacy for your children and grandchildren.