Estate Planning: Start Somewhere
If you have never created an estate plan, you are probably wondering: Where do I start? If it's been a while since you've looked at your plan, you're probably wondering: How do I know if it's time to make any changes? This post is for you.

Estate Planning Checklist
What everyone needs:
* Working with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney
* Financial power of attorney
* Healthcare power of attorney
* Advance directive
* Disposition of remains
* Protected list or database of assets
* Will and/or Living Trust

What married couples need:
* Asset protection for surviving spouse
* Tax planning to maximize benefits for surviving spouse

What parents need:
* Guardianship for minors
* Asset protection for children's inheritance
* Tax planning to maximize benefits for children

What business owners need:
* Asset protection for business property, accounts, and goodwill
* Agreement between all members, shareholders, or partners
* Succession planning
* Integration of business planning into personal estate planning
* Tax planning to minimize state and federal income taxes

Other potential concerns:
* Specialized planning for loved ones with special needs
* Asset protection from long-term care costs
* Eligibility for veterans’ benefits
* Specialized planning for tax-deferred assets like IRAs and 401ks

Updating Your Trust
Updating a Revocable Living Trust:
* Is your trust properly funded?
Is your real estate titled in trust? Are your non-qualified financial accounts owned in trust? Is your trust named as primary beneficiary of life insurance? Is your trust named as contingent beneficiary of retirement accounts? Does trust have conduit provisions? Is your trust the assignee of LLC or partnership interests? Is the trust the stockholder of S corp stock? Does trust language make trust a qualified shareholder?

* Does your trust appropriately define a grantor's incapacity? If trust requires "two physicians," then consider creating a private disability panel to keep determinations of incapacity private and efficient.

* Does your trust protect assets for a surviving spouse (if any)? Does your trust create an irrevocable portion upon death of a grantor? If so, is the irrevocable portion appropriately funded by some means other than an estate tax formula? Does the irrevocable portion require prenuptial agreement upon a future remarriage? Is there spousal special needs planning for benefits eligibility?

* Does your trust protect assets for your beneficiaries? If beneficiaries receive portion "outright" and "free of trust," consider creating cascading trusts to ensure assets protected from beneficiaries' creditors, divorcing spouses, etc. Does your trust include stand-by special needs provisions for beneficiaries that may receive public benefits?

* If your trust distributes to a charitable beneficiary:
Is there an alternative beneficiary named? Does your trust distribute tax-deferred assets to the charity first? If so, does your trust provide guidance to the trustee to avoid the "five year rule" for designated beneficiaries?

Amending an Irrevocable Living Trust:
* By Consent:
Are all grantors still living, and do they have capacity? Do all beneficiaries consent to the amendment?
* Are their adequate provisions for a Trust Protector?
* Was their a mistake in the original trust agreement?

If you want to know more, we would love to talk with you. Best part, the conversation about how it could benefit you doesn't cost anything. Call us at (918) 770-8940 or send an email to

Disclaimer: Reading this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship, and it is not formal legal advice. This is for information purposes only. It is always best to speak with an attorney about your questions, assets, concerns, and needs.

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