It would be nice and much easier for everyone if this blog post was one sentence long and simply told you the exact amount of time probate takes in the state of Oklahoma. However, probate is an extensive process, and the length depends on the complexity of the probate estate and the ease of the litigation involved regarding asset distribution and the payment of debts.
As you probably already know, a trust is a fiduciary agreement that allows a third party or trustee to hold assets on behalf of a beneficiary. Trusts are used in many ways and can specify exactly how and when the assets pass to beneficiaries. One type of trust that is especially useful is a special needs trust, also referred to as a supplemental needs trust. A special needs trust is useful for beneficiaries who are receiving or may receive Medicaid or other state/federal benefits. A special needs trust provides for an individual’s supplemental needs without disqualifying the person from benefits. In other words, it keeps a nest egg of assets for the person’s future needs and keeps the person qualified for government benefits. Supplemental needs are needs or benefits other than those being provided by the government. For example, supplemental needs might include expenses for televisions, cell phones, pre-paid funeral arrangements, personal care items and vacations.
Every adult, wealthy or not, should have a valid will or a living trust in place. Yet, more than half of Americans are unprepared for the inevitable. A last will and testament is a legal document that outlines where and whom your property will pass to after death. Another option is a living trust. A trust also says how you want your assets distributed, but also helps distribute your assets faster, avoids probate, may help avoid unnecessary taxes and keeps your wishes private.
Millennials are often smart, ambitious, innovative people who focus on career building. If you are a member of this group, estate planning may be the furthest thing from your mind.
When real property owners want to transfer surface real estate or minerals to their heirs through a trust, there are several common problems a title examiner will find. Sometimes, the owners make the mistake of conveying property to the individual Trustee, instead of to the Trustee in his or her capacity as Trustee of the named trust. Other times, the property owner conveys the property directly to the trust and fails to file a memorandum of trust listing all the property to be transferred. Finally, property owners often try to combine a memorandum of trust and a conveyance into a single document. These problems can create problems with title to the real property, referred to as a cloud on title, and often result in costly and undue litigation and delays on royalty payments to mineral owners.
Oklahoma does not collect estate taxes, unlike some other states. However, people may have to pay federal taxes. In 2013, the U.S. Congress approved a permanent estate tax exemption that adjusts each year with inflation. Today, the exemption threshold is at $5.43 million, meaning people with assets totaling less than that can avoid the 40 percent tax rate.
There are many options at your disposal when you are doing your estate planning. One item that will likely come up is a living trust. This tool gives an appointed person, known as a trustee, control over assets that have been designated for a beneficiary or heir. Many people in Oklahoma use living trusts because of their many benefits.
As a pet is often considered a part of the family, it is imperative to remember to include it in an estate plan. An Oklahoma law enacted in 2010 allows for people to create a trust that will provide care for a domestic animal. Currently, 46 states have such laws in place, giving animal owners peace of mind that their furry friends will be cared for upon the owner’s death.
People in Oklahoma City who want to leave a legacy may want to explore the option of setting up a charitable trust. There are significant advantages, though the benefits typically only apply to people who are looking to make sizeable contributions.