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Category: Oklahoma Families (Page 2 of 2)

5 Financial Concerns to Address Before You Remarry

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

People who choose to remarry have more to lose than they did the first time around.  They have a more established career, more assets, and, often, children from a previous marriage.  When you remarry you need to be more cautious of protecting your assets and family before you begin your marital bliss.

(1) Determine Your Consolidated Net Worth

Couples who remarry can have complex financial issues that should be addressed prior to the wedding.  Some may be paying child support or alimony, have investments in their names, and already started tax and estate planning strategies for their assets.

Couples should discuss these matters prior to the wedding.  Sit down and decide what your net worth is individually and then talk about it and determine what your joint net worth will be.  This discussion can open up more opportunities to discuss your money management styles and who will handle what in your marriage.

(2) Make a Marriage Agreement – in Writing

I know, I know.  It doesn’t sound romantic to talk about the possibility of divorce before you’re even married.  But, as someone who has been there before, you know the reality that your marital bliss could end one day, and you must properly prepare.

Each party should welcome a marriage agreement, in the form of a prenuptial agreement, preferably.  These documents allow you to specify what assets you want to keep separate in your marriage, so that you can claim them free and clear in a divorce.

(3) Talk About the Kids

Blended families create many different kinds of dynamics.  But, regardless of your family’s dynamic, the fact remains that the children and the spouse should be accounted for in financial and estate plans.  Children cost a lot of money.  You must be on the same page with your new spouse about what you will and won’t pay for when it comes to the kids.

Will you both contribute to the care of the children? Or will the spouse who brings the children to the marriage be solely responsible?  What if one of you makes significantly more than the other?  How will you plan for the children’s expenses?

Do you want your ex-spouse to manage any money that you leave to the children?  If not, you will need a more complex estate plan for your children.  Speak with financial planners and an attorney with experience in estate planning to plan for your blended family.

(4) Update Beneficiaries

Life insurance, retirement accounts, even banking accounts can have beneficiaries named that will receive these assets at your death.  It is very easy to forget to update beneficiaries on all of your accounts, but it is extremely important to do so after every major life event.  Marriage is one of the most important.

When you create a life with someone new, you want to know they’ll be taken care of when you are gone.  If you don’t update your beneficiaries, your Mom or Brother will still get the money if something happens to you, and your spouse will struggle.

(5) Change Your Wealth and Estate Plans

Another easy area to forget to update is your legal documents and wealth plans.  We often create these important documents and check it off our list, to leave them collecting dust in the safety deposit box.  But, as life changes, so do your plans.

Be sure to update these documents after you get married by reaching out to your estate and wealth planning professionals!

 

Plan Well For Your End of Life Like Barbara Bush and Betty Ford

Source: http://www.fordlibrarymuseum.gov/images/avproj/pop-ups/2008-NLF-021.html

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Everyone is familiar with former first ladies Barbara Bush and Betty Ford. Both impacted countless lives with their service, albeit in different ways. Barbara Bush advocated for children and literacy and died just days ago, on April 17th. Betty Ford was politically active and an avid feminist who died on July 8, 2011. Their deaths left a void in America’s hearts and can teach us valuable lessons.

Barbara’s Planning

Barbara Bush was an elegant woman.  Her death was no different.  She made choices in her estate plan that allowed her to decide how she would live out her final days.  Her well-lived life deserved nothing more than a well-planned end. The circumstances surrounding her death prove she had a healthcare directive in place.

Barbara chose to stop treating her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure. She chose to return home for her final days. Her plans enabled her to spend her last days peacefully with her family, enjoying a bourbon as her last drink.

Without a healthcare directive, families are left wondering what their loved ones’ wishes were for their medical care and treatment at the end of their lives. A healthcare directive tells your family what you want, and who you want to make important decisions, like withdrawing life support.  Oklahoma law does not give authority to anyone, absent a directive, to agree to withhold or withdraw life support for a loved one.

Unlike Barbara, many U.S. citizens avoid planning their deaths. A study from the Palliative and Advanced Illness Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 showed that 71 % of Americans do not have healthcare directives in place.

Let’s learn a lesson from this influential First Lady and make our plans today!

Betty Ford’s Special Wishes

Betty Ford was a spirited, opinionated, and lively first lady.  In keeping with her character, Betty Ford used her estate plan to get her wish of having Cokie Roberts deliver a eulogy based on how political partisanship hurts the United States.

Betty left Cokie Roberts instructions on her eulogy, stating she wanted Cokie to discuss government in the 1960s and 1970s and how the parties were required to work together, mostly because they often socialized together. She picked Cokie Roberts because her father was a Democratic Congressman known for working well with a Republican, Gerald Ford.

Many families struggle with funeral arrangements.  They ask themselves what their loved ones would have wanted.  The more specific you are in your estate planning documents, the less guesswork you leave for your family.  These are your documents.  Make your funeral the party, or non-gathering, you always wanted it to be!

Follow the examples of these strong, memorable first ladies.  Reach out to a professional to take action on your estate plans.  Or, at the very least, start thinking about and writing down your wishes so your family can honor them and you can put them in more binding form later.

Start talking to your families out loud.  Let them know what you want.  These conversations may not seem easy, but the reality is, few things that are worth it ever are.

8 Tips for Managing Your Finances After a Divorce

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Divorces are seldom simple and neat.  Complex and contentious divorces can take years to resolve.  As if the Court process itself weren’t enough, when your divorce is finally complete, outside of basic items, such as changing your name and address, there are several financial issues you will need to take care of as well.

(1) Credit Issues

Be sure to cancel all joint accounts you held with your now-ex-spouse. You will need to set up separate accounts in your name only.

(2) Take Your Spouse’s Name Off Accounts As Beneficiary

You need to update your estate planning documents and contact your financial planner and banker to take your ex-spouse’s name off any beneficiary designations. You don’t want your ex benefiting from your death. Check all life insurance policies, retirement, pensions, annuities, and stocks to ensure you have disinherited your ex-spouse.

(3) Divide Retirement Accounts By Court Order (QDRO)

A Qualified Domestic Relations Order from your Court will be necessary to split retirement assets obtained through the marriage.  Have a professional help you work this out with your ex.

(4) Make Sure You Get Your Awarded Child and Spousal Support

In Oklahoma, the Department of Human Services provides a service where they will automatically withdraw your child support from your ex-spouse’s account for a minimal fee. They will also keep track of your ex-spouse if they change jobs and enforce your child support orders and collect back child support.  If your ex is unreliable, this is a great option!

For spousal support, can you arrange an automatic withdrawal in your Court order?  Make collection as easy as possible for both of you.

(5) Refinance or Sell Real Estate

If the Court ordered that you could keep certain real estate, make sure it is re-titled in your name only and refinance the property into your name as well.  If the court ordered a sell, get the property on the market.

(6) Get Health Insurance

If your ex covered you under their policy, you will need to get individual insurance to cover yourself.

(7) Budget

Your income is likely to take a dip since you will be living on one income instead of two.  Be sure to put pen to paper and come up with a reasonable budget for your new situation.

(8) Avengers Assemble

Pick a strong team of professionals to help you organize and plan your financial future.  You will need attorneys, financial planners, tax professionals, and other skilled professionals to help your journey.  Assemble that team of avenging superheroes now!

Speak to your divorce attorney about preparing your Order so that your ex will not shirk his or her responsibilities to you, such as signing documents to transfer property to you.

The best Defense is a strong Offense.  You know the points where your ex may be weak or unreliable.  Think those weaknesses through strategically and plan for them in your Court order to save yourself future headaches and stress!

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.

6 Concerns When Making Your Home Senior-Friendly

By: Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Many baby boomers are aging, causing a spike in our elderly population.  To prepare a home for an aging loved one, you must consider some unique challenges seniors face.  For example, seniors are known to fall more frequently than their younger counterparts, have mobility issues, and have more trouble with their sight.

Today, we will discuss 6 concerns when making your home senior-friendly, whether for yourself or a loved one.

(1) Bathroom Accommodations

Walking and standing on slick, wet surfaces can be difficult for anyone.  This is especially true for our elderly population.  To help seniors lower their risk of a serious fall and injury, consider adding a walk-in tub with a door that opens into the tub/shower and shower seating.

(2) Lights

Lighting can help prevent falls in the home.  Simply putting lighting in places like stairways and near steps can show people where they need to place their feet so as not to fall. Lighting also helps seniors see better in general, improving their quality of life when aging in place.

(3) Accessibility for Walkers and Wheelchairs

Seniors may need the help of a wheelchair or walker to get around.  Widening hallways can help prevent falls and allow elders greater mobility.  Also, adding ramps in place of stairs can make access easier for everyone.

(4) Heights of Cabinets and Countertops

Changing countertop and cabinet heights can help prevent falls for those with limited reach. Shelves that rotate are also an option to provide better access.  They can swing out to accommodate seniors and be returned after use.

(5) Access to Second-story

Many seniors have a hard time getting up and down stairs.  If you or your loved one have a second story, you should consider installing an elevator or chair lift. You may also want to consider moving the sleeping area for the senior to a downstairs room.

(6) More Concerns

Seniors face issues other than mobility, falls, and sight.  They may find it hard to hold or grip everyday household items like door knobs or faucets.  Consider installing new faucets and knobs that they can use.

Each senior will also have their own, unique set of limitations.  Be sure to address those needs and concerns in your loved one’s home.

 

5 Estate Planning Concerns for Single Parents

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

For married couples, many decisions regarding who manages assets after death and makes medical decisions for their spouse can be relatively easy.  When a family involves a single parent, those questions can become more complicated.

Today we’ll discuss 5 concerns single parents should consider when making their estate plans.

(1) Who Will Take Care of the Kids?

Who would you want to take care of your minor children if you’re unable to?  If you are a divorced parent, the default will be the other parent, if that parent is living. If that parent dies before you, or for another reason is not in the children’s lives, you will need to choose someone you trust to care for your children.  If that person does not have the financial resources to take on an extra child or more, you may want to consider establishing a trust for the care of the children.  These trusts can be funded with life insurance proceeds, or any other assets you have.

(2) Are You Insured?

As a single parent, your financial responsibilities are greater than married families.  You carry the entire burden yourself.  Be sure to look into life insurance and disability policies so that you and your children can be covered financially during any times of disability or death.

(3) What Happens if You’re Incapacitated?

All estate plans should include incapacity planning.  If the children are adults, they can help make medical and financial decisions for their parent if they’re incapacitated.  If they are not adults, you will need to find a family member or close friend who can help make medical and financial decisions for you when you are unable.

(4) Do You Have a Trust?

If you have young children, a trust is the only way to ensure they will not receive their money until you are ready for them to and to control the way those assets can be managed.  If you have an ex still living and the children are minors, without a trust, the money will go directly to your ex to manage for the children as he or she sees fit.  If that situation doesn’t sit well with you, you will need a trust for your children with a manager that you trust to handle their assets correctly.

(5) Have You Updated Your Estate Plan?

Estate plans should be reviewed regularly to update beneficiary designations and ensure the documents still meet your intentions.  Transitional periods such as marriage, divorce, and when minors become adults are all very important times to review all plans and update them.  Don’t wait.  Take out your plan today and review it.

Single parents have a lot of responsibilities.  It can be easy to forget about the details of planning for your children if you die or are unable to care for them.  However, planning is even more important for single parent families, since they do not have a default person to rely on.

Reach out to professionals to help you refine your own estate plans.

6 Common Adoption Questions

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

When you are looking to grow your family through adoption, it is an exciting, yet nervous time.  Though some people adopt through family relationships- stepparents, grandparents, etc., that is not always the case.

If you are looking to adopt, below are answers to some of the most common questions we’re asked about adoption.

(1) How Do I Adopt?

The first adoption option is through agencies.  Agency adoptions include private and public agencies.  Oklahoma’s public agency is the Department of Human Services.  Private agencies are available throughout the U.S. and Internationally.  If you are using a private agency, be sure it is a reputable one that you or someone you know is familiar with.

Another option is independent adoption. These adoptions are generally facilitated through attorneys, other professionals, or the pregnant woman herself.  Independent adoptions in Oklahoma have the greatest potential for abuse, as biological mothers can revoke consent to adoption any time before they have given consent in court to a Judge, or their rights have been legally terminated.

(2) What Children Are Available for Adoption?

Many different kinds of children are available for adoption.  They come from all different backgrounds, races, nationalities, and religions.  Children can be adopted from the U.S. or internationally.

(3) How Long Does it Take?

The longest part of the process is finding your child.  Waiting times for placements vary depending on your specific interests and qualifications.  Public agencies adopt out children whose parents’ rights have been terminated.  Since their goal is reunification with the family, that generally means they have more older children available.  Private agencies generally allow the biological parent to choose the adopting parent, so you are subject to the likes and dislikes of the parents.

Once you find your child, the legal process in Oklahoma can take 3 months to 1 year, depending on the status of the adoptive child’s parents and the likelihood the biological parents will fight the case.

(4) How Much Does it Cost?

Costs vary depending on the placement used for adopting your child.  Public agencies tend to cost less, and usually cover adoption expenses.  So, public agency adoptions range from 0 – about $2,000.

Private agencies range from $4,000 – $30,000 depending on the agency and services.

Independent adoptions are hard to pinpoint.  In Oklahoma, adoptive parents can help with some expenses of the biological mother.  The biological mother will also need to have an independent attorney hired for her.  So, you are looking at a range of about $5,000 – $30,000 or more, depending on your contract with the biological mother and court costs and attorney fees.

International adoptions can cost $8,000 – $30,000 or more.

(5) What if I’m Single?

Oklahoma laws allow single people over the age of 21 to adopt children.

(6) What Information Will I Give?

You will have to pass a background check and a home study.  Throughout this process, they will check for criminal records, learn about your family history and background, talk about your motivation and expectations for adoption, learn about your family environment and parenting style, and check your physical, employment, and health history.

 

6 Financial Tips for New (or Expecting) Parents

By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Did you know the average cost of raising a child to adulthood in the U.S., according to 2015 statistics, is estimated to be $230,000?  This does not include extras like private school or college education. This is just the bare-bone basics.  Shocking, I know!

So, what are some tips experienced parents have to help new and expecting parents save and budget their money? Here are 6 tried-and-true tips!

(1) Plan for Formula and Diapers, and Then Budget More

Keep in mind the average child is not potty-trained until 3 years old.  Yep, you read that right. Three.  That’s a lot of dirty diapers to change!  And newborns are expected to have at least 6 dirty diapers a day!  So, budget for those added diaper expenses.

Also, prepare as though you will buy formula.  Most mothers intend to breastfeed as long as possible.  But, in reality, some mothers are unable to breastfeed at all, and others may find the task too difficult when returning to work.  That may be because their employer doesn’t offer an adequate space, or because they are physically drained from constant feeding and pumping.

Whatever the reason, you may need formula sooner than you think.  So budget for it from the start.

(2) Subscription Services

There are several subscription services available to new parents.  These subscriptions usually come with some great savings.  Amazon has Subscribe and Save, there’s also diapers.com, and other subscription services to explore based on your family’s needs.  Check them out!

(3) Don’t Budget too Much on Toys

The truth is, most younger children do not play with many toys, or get bored easily with their toys.  Consider establishing a 529 College plan instead of having a toy budget.  Family and friends can contribute to the fund directly.

Other great “investments” for baby’s birthday include clothes, diapers, and books.

(4) Get Involved in Your Local Community

Local libraries are a great way to get social interaction for your children for free or low cost.  Also, check out local playgroups and mom communities.  Many are easily accessible online through Facebook or Meetup.com.

(5) Don’t Forget Those Extra Weeks

We all know a year is made up of 52 weeks.  But, sometimes we forget those sneaky extra weeks.  Those extra weeks can make your child’s needs, like daycare, more expensive.  Be sure to remember and account for them in your budget.

(6) Check Out Consignment and Other Second-Hand Shops

Let’s be honest.  Most babies hardly wear their clothes before they grow out of them in the first year.  Don’t be afraid of second-hand items.  They’re great deals!

The Oklahoma City Metro has wonderful consignment options.  There are brick and mortar buildings, like Once Upon a Time and Storkland.  There are also many mom clothing exchanges throughout the year and throughout the metro, such as Just Between Friends and Moms of Multiples, just to name a few.

Keep an eye out and talk to Mom friends to find the best bargains for your baby!

The best resource for any new parent is the knowledge and support of other parents.  Reach out to your tribe, or find one for yourself, and heed their sage advice!

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