Sarah Stewart Legal Group, PLLC

Caring, Honest, Solutions to Your Legal Needs at Affordable Rates.

Month: February 2018

3 Reasons Millennials Should Make Wealth and Estate Plans

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

A lot of people avoid planning for their wealth and estates.  They, mistakenly, believe that estate and wealth planning are tools made only for the wealthy.

But, whether you have $50,000 or $5 million, planning is crucial for building wealth and to provide security, cost-savings, and peace for your loved ones after you’re gone.

There are 3 good reasons Millennials should plan for their estates and their wealth with a professional today:

(1) You Still Have Responsibilities After You Die

The government and creditors will try to collect what you owe them from your estate when you’re gone.

Someone will have to pay your income taxes for the year you died, property taxes on real estate you own, and possibly, state or federal estate taxes for your estate. Your estate plan will help your family manage these obstacles when you’re gone.

(2) Do-it-Yourself Estate Plans Are Not A Good Idea

Everyone’s estate is a little bit different.  We all own different kinds of property and have specific wishes for what we want to happen to that property when we die.  Online forms and services are one-size-fits-all solutions to a diverse field.

If you make a mistake in your estate plan today, your heirs will have to pay for it tomorrow, when you’re gone. There are so many deep, complex issues to consider that estate and wealth planning on your own is not the best route.  Speak to professionals to get your wishes in order.

(3) Digital Assets

We gain a lot of property throughout our lives.  Millennials should begin thinking of who they want to receive their 401ks, bitcoins, and other assets while they’re acquiring them, and name beneficiaries for the assets they can from the beginning.

Other types of digital assets require planning as well.  Who will manage and close your social media accounts, online payment accounts, and money-making assets such as blogs and online stores?

These issues need to be addressed in modern estate plans.

There are so many considerations in estate and wealth planning.  There is no better time to reach out to professionals and start than now!

3 Ways the New Tax Law Can Affect Your Family’s Wealth Plan

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Most of us are aware that Congress passed a new tax bill for the 2017 tax year.  The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 will affect most of us come tax time.  But, how will the new law affect your family’s wealth and estate plan?

We discuss 3 ways the act can affect your family’s planning below.

(1) Annual Gifting

The Federal government allows everyone a set amount of money they can gift, per person, each year without the gifts cutting into their estate tax exclusion.  The new tax law still allows for annual gifting.  However, the amount each person can gift each year increased from $14,000 to $15,000 per gift.

The gift exemption can become a little stickier for those needing long-term care.  Keep in mind that those who receive Medicaid for long-term care may have these gifts counted against them for Medicaid qualification purposes.  In Oklahoma, the look-back period is 5 years and any gifts made in the prior 5 years will have to be paid back to, or counted against the assets of, the person attempting to qualify for Medicaid.

(2) Inheritance and the Adjusted Basis

Another area of the law that stayed the same is the adjusted basis for those who inherit assets that have gained value during the deceased’s life.  This rule allows heirs to avoid capital gains taxes on assets that have increased in value.  The rule applies to estates of all sizes.

(3) Estate Taxes

The greatest change in the new tax law affects the estate tax, positively, for high-wealth families.  The threshold for having to pay estate taxes has almost doubled with the new law from about $5.9 million per person before, to $11 million per person now.

For couples, the exemption amount is $22 million.  The exemption applies to estates from December 31, 2017 to January 1, 2026.

For more information on how these, and other parts of the tax law, affect you and your family’s wealth plan, consult a professional.

How Are Debts Paid During Probate?

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Probate is a court process where someone who has a Will, does not have an estate plan at all, or has a trust but missed placing some of their assets into the trust and has property titled in their name only has died and the family has to work with a Judge to transfer that property.

The most common question I get about probate from clients is

What About the Debt?

After a probate is started in Oklahoma, the representative appointed by the Court has to file and publish notice to creditors of the death.  This notice must also be mailed to creditors of which the representative is aware.

Creditors then have a set time in which they have to file a claim on the estate. If they miss their deadlines, the debt is wiped.  This rule does not apply to all creditors- generally, the government, or creditors with secured interests- like mortgage companies who have a lien on the property until the mortgage is paid.

Do Representatives Have to Pay the Debts?

Though the Representative is the person responsible for paying the deceased’s debts, their role is more a role of management.  They are not personally responsible for the debts and do not pay them with their own money.

Instead, they use any money left over in the deceased’s account to pay the debts where claims have been filed, or a secured interest is in place. If the money is not available, the debts cannot be paid.

Anyone can file a probate without an attorney in Oklahoma.  But, the probate process is very precise.

There are deadlines that must be met and very specific procedures that must be followed.  If you represent yourself, you are telling the Court you agree to follow all of those procedures. You are held to the same standard as the attorneys who enter the courtroom every day.

So, please reach out to an attorney to decide if you need to file a probate, and to get help with the process. Make your grieving process a little easier by having someone else handle the complicated court process.


4 Considerations to Help You Plan For Your Bitcoins When You Die

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Cryptocurrency and Bitcoin have quickly become household names.  From a meager beginning not even a decade ago, the currencies have reached astounding popularity.

In 2009, Satoshi Nakamoto created the first ever cryptocurrency known as Bitcoin and the Bitcoin network. In 2011, other cryptocurrencies were created. By October 2012, more than 1,000 companies accepted Bitcoin as payment for goods and services.

In 2013, the coins were selling for $22 per coin, increasing to $160 per coin by the end of the year. In December of 2017,  the coins were worth $14,000 a piece and more than 160,000 merchants accepted the coins as payment for goods and services.

The extreme popularity and surges in value of the coin has begged the question, how do the owners plan for the transfer of the coins when they die?

Estate Planning for Bitcoin, other Cryptocurrencies, and Digital Assets

Since cryptocurrencies and other kinds of digital assets, such as travel and reward programs, are constantly changing, they are usually not addressed in typical estate planning documents like Wills and Trusts.

But, as with other assets that we own, digital assets are still a very real and important part of our lives.  As such, they deserve the same consideration and planning about where they should go after our deaths as any other assets we own. We must be proactive in planning their transfer and creating the documents we need to help our loved ones navigate our digital assets.

Digital Trustees

One option is to appoint a digital trustee in your Will or trust to exclusively handle the transfer of your digital assets. In selecting this special trustee, you would want to be sure they are technologically savvy and trustworthy.  You would also want to be sure to leave them clear directions on how you want your digital assets transferred.

List of Assets

For any estate plan, knowledge of where the assets are held is crucial.  But, this is probably even more true of digital assets.  Trustees will need to know where you are enrolled in rewards and travel programs and where other digital assets are held.  These items are fairly easy to transfer, but the trustee has to know where to find them.


Some assets, such as cryptocurrencies, require a password.  So, keeping a list of all of your current passwords, whether on paper, online, or on a computer or other device where your trustee can gain access, is vital for transfers. Cryptocurrencies generally do not keep a centralized registry, so loss of these passwords can lead to a large loss of assets for your loved ones.

Passwords should not be kept in Wills because Wills have to be probated and are listed publicly upon the creator’s death.  That means anyone with the knowledge of how to access a Court case could find your passwords and transfer your accounts.

Good options for password storage include online password management systems or wallets; having a secure document on your computer or other device that your trustee knows how to access; or providing a paper document kept somewhere safe, along with your other planning documents.

Specific Rules for Each Account

Many digital accounts will have separate, specific rules for transferring ownership.  So, your trustee will have to be able to understand each company’s specific rules and follow their directions to transfer your property to your loved ones. Make sure you choose a trustee who can handle this responsibility.

Bitcoin and other digital assets are growing in popularity.  They continue to change and evolve.  So, it is important to have a plan in place for these assets at your death.

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén