Coming of Age Program – Assisting your Child After Age 18

At Horizon Attorneys & Counselors at Law PLC (“Horizon”) we are continually striving to assist our clients in fulfilling their estate planning needs. Now that we are heading into fall, many students are starting their senior year of high school or heading off to college. Although these students are often still wholly dependent on their parents for financial support, once they turn 18, they are legally adults in the eyes of the law. This legal independence provides numerous new rights for your child, but also terminates certain rights held by you as their parents.

Two of these rights are access to medical information and the ability to make medical decisions. Under federal law (HIPAA), medical providers are prevented from sharing a patient’s medical information without patient consent. For example, in the event of an emergency, your child’s doctor may not be able to share crucial information with you. Additionally, if your child becomes incapacitated, you may not have authority over their bank accounts and financial decisions. This problem could result in bills that need paid or checks that need deposited, and you no longer have the authority to authorize such transactions.

As your child reaches legal age, let us help ease the burden. We will prepare documents for you in our Coming of Age package, including electronic copies to make it easy for you to retrieve these documents in the event of an emergency.

If you have a child age eighteen or older and are interested in the Coming of Age Package, please call or email me at (918) 398-7900 or thudgins@horizonattorney.com to find out more information

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10 Questions Every Business Owner Should Ask

10 Questions Every Business Owner Should Ask

  1.  How do you see your involvement in your business changing or evolving in the future?
  2. What’s your next great adventure after you leave your business
  3. Which obstacles do you think could derail your business or personal goals in the coming years?
  4. What role does your business need to play in helping you achieve financial freedom?
  5. What is your plan for your ownership interest in your business? Do you plan to pass ownership along or arrange for a sale some day?
  6. Which method or methods have you used to assess the value of your business, and how confident are you in that process?
  7. Given your buyer (or successor) plans, have you thought about who the best leader for your business might be?
  8. What do you think will happen to your customers, your vendors, your employees, and your competitors if something happens to you?
  9. Which planning suggestions have other business advisors given you to prepare for the future ownership of your business?
  10. What do you see as your greatest challenge when you think about planning for the future?

 

If you want to learn more about questions you should be asking about your business, schedule a meeting with us today.

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LLC Compliance: What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You!

One of the advantages of forming an LLCs is to create a separation from the owner’s assets and the liabilities of the company. But many times, an LLC is formed with little understanding of the legal requirements in order to maintain the protections that an LLC affords its owner or owners. At Horizon Attorneys and Counselors at Law PLC, we regularly sees instances of non-compliance with LLC governance, including:

  1. Inactive Status – failure to file annual reports
  2. OTC Suspensions – failure to file annual franchise taxes
  3. Outdated Registered Agent, location addresses or contact emails
  4. No annual minutes or special minutes that document important LLC activity
  5. No Operating Agreement or one that is outdated or deficient as to tax status, ownership, buy-sell provisions and creditor protection.
  6. Series LLCs without the proper Secretary of State designation.
  7. LLC assets are not properly aligned with the LLC, such as real property.
  8. LLC ownership that is not properly aligned with the member(s) estate plan.
  9. LLCs that are operating in states where they have not registered to do business.
  10. Instances where tax elections can generate significant tax savings.

Failure to keep your LLC in compliance weakens and in some cases may eliminate protections and could enable a creditor or claimant to “pierce the corporate veil” and obtain a judgment against your personal assets to satisfy a claim.  The State of Oklahoma has started to focus on single member LLCs, primarily disregarded entities, for sales tax purposes, to see if they are “sham LLCs” – those that are lacking in sufficient substance.

You don’t have time to worry about corporate governance requirements when you are trying to grow and maintain your business. Horizon’s Business Protection Program was established to assist business owners with their compliance requirements. We assist LLCs, non-profit and for-profit corporations, and foundations with their annual requirements as well as provide legal support for a low annual fee.  Contact us today and let us tell you how we can help!

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The Top 2 Ways the Court Gets Involved in Your Estate and How to Avoid Them

No one wants unnecessary court involvement in their life. But without careful and proactive estate planning, chances are that some aspect of your estate will end up being decided there.

Here are two of the most common ways court proceedings can make their way into the management and distribution of your assets, along with the estate planning measures you can take to avoid them.

1. Guardianship and conservatorship

If you experience an inability to make decisions on your own behalf, also known as legal incapacity, and you don’t have provisions for what to do in this situation clearly outlined in your estate plan, it falls upon the guardianship or conservatorship court to decide who will become responsible for handling your finances, lifestyle, and medical care. You can become legally incapacitated because of an accident, injury, or degenerative illness. In the case of guardianship and conservatorship (sometimes called “living probate”), your estate’s details, as well as discussion about your medical conditions, may be made public and be the topic of court proceedings.

How to avoid it: To make sure the government doesn’t get involved in your wealth management and health care during your lifetime, you need to determine who serve as your agent under your power of attorney. You can appoint durable and medical powers of attorney for various categories of management in your life and estate. A solid long-term care plan, living will, and fully-funded revocable trust are also crucial components in avoiding living probate proceedings.

2. The probate process

Probate is the name for the court proceeding that takes place after your death to prove that your will is valid and that its terms are carried out accurately and legally. Probate brings your financial and personal affairs out into the open via a public forum, and your estate can dwindle due to legal fees incurred during this time. It can also take an excessive amount of time due to the slow nature of court proceedings, dragging out a potentially stressful episode for your family.

How to avoid it: Having a will does not avoid probate, since all wills must go through probate to be validated. Although you’ll often hear about joint tenancy, beneficiary designations, and other probate avoidance options as alternatives to wills, only a fully funded revocable trust can consolidate the management and preservation of all types of assets. So, the best way to avoid probate is to work with your estate planning attorney to establish and fully fund a revocable living trust and name your beneficiaries and trustees ahead of time.

We’re here to help

Estate planning can be a daunting thing to consider when you’re busy and we know you are all busy. That’s why we work diligently to present you with the best estate planning tools and strategies in a straightforward manner, letting you get back to focusing on what’s most important to you today. Give us a call to discuss what strategies will work best to keep your assets in your family and the court out of your affairs.

 

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Selling the Family Business

Did you know only 1/3 of business owners succeed in passing their business to the second generation; only 12% of the second generation owners are successful in getting the business to the third generation; and by the fourth generation, only 3% of businesses are still controlled by family members?  According to a PricewaterhouseCoopers study, there are more than three million family businesses currently contemplating a sale. 

If you are a business owner and you are contemplating a sale, you may be asking yourself what is the best way to sell your business.  Here is the process we discuss with our clients:

1.        Determine family dynamics issues, including whether selling is better than succession.  Are there family members who can fill the shoes of current family management?  Can a professional management team be brought in to avoid a sale?  Is a sale to employees or a third party appropriate?

 2.       Formulate a team of advisors to ensure the transition occurs effectively and with collaboration.  The sale of your business may require you to change or expand your advisory team to obtain the best results.  Your advisory team should include at a minimum a qualified CPA, a transactional attorney, an investment banker, an appraiser and a financial advisor.

 3.       Financial planning is required to determine the cash flow needs of the owners and family members are met.  In this step it is necessary to determine if after the sale there is sufficient core capital to sustain the business owner and their family members lifestyles.

 4.       Analyze the timing of the sale to maximize value on the sale given the state of the business and the current business cycle.  There are multiple steps that need to be taken to get the business ready for sale.  These steps are based on your particular business but may include reducing costs, diversifying the customer base and developing a strong team of nonfamily managers.

 5.       The transaction needs to be structured properly.  As a business owner you only have one shot to get the transfer of your business correct.  It is vitally important to ensure the transfer is structured in a tax-efficient manner.  You need to consider federal and state income tax, capital gains tax, estate tax, and charitable planning opportunities when structuring the transaction.

 6.       Determining the proper buyer.    Is your business better suited for a sale or transfer to a strategic buyer, a financial buyer, other family members, the existing management team or the employees using an employee stock ownership plan? 

 7.       Finally, it is important to consider post-sale planning for the business owner(s) and their families.  Often each of the owners want to take their money and go their separate ways, while other times families want to pool the proceeds and invest them together using professional money managers and possibly even a family office.

 Please contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss your business transition plan.  It is never too early to start planning! 

 

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WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO

We all need a plan.  If you don’t have one, the State of Oklahoma has one for you and you may not like the State sponsored plan. What do you need?  It depends – classic lawyer answer, right?  It really does depend on your goals and objectives, your family, and your assets.

  • The basics.
    • At a minimum each of you should have a revocable living trust, pour-over will, durable power of attorney (financial decisions), healthcare power of attorney, and advanced directive (living will).  Depending on your goals and objectives, other planning such as a wealth preservation trust, life insurance trust, special needs trust, charitable trust and irrevocable trusts for your family may be relevant.
  • But I have a plan.
    • Congratulations, you are better off than 64% of the American public.  However, you need to realize that estate planning is not a one-time event where you get your binder full of documents, sit it on your bookshelf and forget about it.  You have to regularly review and update your plan for changes in your family, your assets and the law.
  • The number one problem we see with estate plans.
    • The client’s assets are not properly aligned with the plan.  This results in assets going around the plan and a client’s designated “helpers” getting to go through the probate process.  Avoid the “Morbid Scavenger Hunt”, get your assets properly aligned with your estate plan while you are alive and well.
  • So you have a business.
    •   If you have a business, you should have a buy-sell agreement if you have multiple owners unless you want to be in business with the other owner’s spouse or children.  If you are the sole owner consider including instructions for what happens to the business in the event of your disability or death in your trust.  You all will exit your business one day.  You need a plan for how this exit will occur.  Will you gift your business to children, sell it to key employees or possibly sell it to a third party?  It is never too early to start this planning.
  • A few points to consider:
    1. Your lawyer gets better with time – i.e. the “Practice of Law”.  Some things we now include in trusts:  remarriage protection, trust protector provisions, and divorce and creditor protection for your children.
    2. Is your Power of Attorney effective now or only upon your mental disability with the certification of a physician or two?
    3. Don’t put your children in business together if one of them is actively involved in the business and the other child or children are not.  There are ways to give the other children non-business assets or utilize life insurance as an equalizer.
    4. Consider the use of a corporate trustee if you or you and your spouse can’t serve as trustee.  It can become adversarial if one child serves a trustee – the other children feel like the process is taking too long, they envision the child trustee may be stealing from the trust, lawyers get involved – you get the picture.
    5. Ensure your personal property is assigned to the trust and use a personal property memorandum to list your “special stuff” and the person who gets each item.  You would not believe how many times families get ripped apart fighting over mom and dad’s special stuff (the baseball card collection, mom’s antiques, dad’s watch, the list goes on and on).
  • So what is this all going to cost?
    •   Costs vary based on your level of planning; a good estimate for a married couple is $2,000 to $3,000 for a will based plan with all of the ancillary documents (wills, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, advanced directive (living will) and $3,000 to $4,000 for a trust based plan with all of the ancillary documents (pour-over wills, durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, advanced directive (living will).
  • How long does this take to set up?
    • In our office, the process starts with an initial meeting so we can understand your goals and objectives and determine if we want to work together, then we provide you with an engagement letter detailing the planning we will perform and the cost to design and implement the plan. If you want to move forward you will sign the engagement letter and then we have a meeting to ask specific questions to ensure we have all of the information we need to design and draft the estate plan.  Next, we draft the documents and schedule a time to review the documents with you.  When the documents match up with your goals and objectives, the documents are signed and then we work with you to ensure we have all of the assets properly aligned with the plan.  This process generally take two to three weeks to get the documents drafted and executed and another two to three weeks to get the assets properly aligned with the plan (if we have all the information we need to move forward).

If you would like a free consultation to discuss the design and implementation of a tax plan for you and your business please contact us today.

 

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Ways to Give

During the holiday season many of us give gifts to family, friends and our favorite charities.  As you give your gifts to charities this year you may want to consider other ways you can give.  Here is a run down of several options:

Charitable Remainder Trusts (CRT)
A CRT provides a current year income tax deduction while allowing the grantor to retain an income stream for a period of years or life.  The amount remaining in the trust after the term or after the grantor’s life passes to a named charity or charities.  Several advantages of utilizing a CRT include:  a tax-free investing environment for assets inside the CRT, the ability to change the charitable beneficiaries during the term of the CRT and being able to name a donor advised fund as the remainder beneficiary.

Charitable Lead Trust (CLT)
A CLT provides a current year income tax deduction for the interest to be paid to the charity or charities over the term of the trust.  The remainder of funds in the trust can pass to family members or trusts for the benefit of family members free of gift and estate tax.  A donor may name a donor advised fund or even a private foundation as the charitable recipient of the CLT if structures properly.

Private Foundations (PF)
A PF allows a donor to make a donation, take an income tax deduction and retain some continuing control (possibly for generations) over the investment and distribution of the funds inside of the PF.  The PF funds will ultimately all pass to charities or be utilized to support the charitable mission of the PF.  A donor can select the charitable beneficiaries over time and just the charitable mission of the foundation as well.  The PF provides an excellent opportunity to involve children and grandchildren in the charitable giving process.

Donor Advised Funds (DAFs)
A DAF allows a donor to make a donation, receive a charitable deduction and maintain some control over the investment and distribution of the funds.  A DAF has higher adjusted gross income limitations than a PF.

If you are interested in establishing a charitable giving plan for your family please contact us to schedule a free consultation to discuss which option is right for you.

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WHY DO YOU NEED AN ESTATE PLAN?

Preserve and Maximize Assets

  • By minimizing taxes during your life
  • Minimize or eliminate estate taxes upon your death
  • Minimize or eliminate capital gains your beneficiaries may have to pay on their inheritance
  • Reduce estate administration costs through probate avoidance
  • Avoid or limit medical claims on your assets should you require long term care
  • Ensure a special-needs beneficiary assets are protected from government seizure while retaining eligibility for needed services
  • Ensure assets are passed to your descendants and not given away to outsiders, such as spouses, creditors or the government
  • Qualify for Medicaid while protecting assets to the extent allowed under the law.

Protect Yourself and Your Spouse

  • From professional liability claims or other creditor claims
  • From guardianship or conservator proceedings if you or your spouse become incapacitated
  • From probate delays, publicity and stress upon the survivors
  • From hospital policies that may be against your wishes
  • From healthcare decisions made by people that may not have your best interest at heart

Protect Your Children or Other Beneficiaries

  • From creditor or predators who can discover inheritance amounts in probate
  • From claims of divorced spouses
  • From professional malpractice claims for professional beneficiaries
  • From other tort creditors’ claims
  • From stress and delay of probate proceedings
  • From financial immaturity
  • From litigation claims from disinherited heirs

Leave a Lasting Legacy

  • Benefit a charitable organization
  • Support a common family goal
  • Ensure needs of survivors will be met
  • Leave a legacy for future generations by utilizing dynastic and charitable trusts, private foundations and donor advised funds

If you would like a free consultation to discuss the design and implementation of an estate plan for you and your family please contact us today.

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10 Most Expensive Tax Mistakes That Cost Business Owners Thousands

  1.  Failing to Plan
  2. Audit Paranoia
  3. Wrong Business Entity
  4. Wrong Retirement Plan
  5. Missing Family Employment
  6. Missing Medical Benefits
  7. Missing Home Office Deductions
  8. Missing Car/Truck Expenses
  9. Missing Meals/Entertainment
  10. Missing Tax Coaching Services

The biggest mistake of all is failing to plan.  At Horizon Certified Public Accountants & Consultants PLC, we offer true tax planning.  We will tell you what to do, when to do it and how to do it to minimize your federal and state taxes.

If you are serious about taking advantage of these strategies for your business please contact us today.

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Give Yourself a Christmas Gift

You can give yourself a big Christmas present this holiday season if you take the time to design and implement a tax plan.

Don’t delay, if you don’t implement your plan prior to January 1, 2017 it will be too late.  Here are ten (10) year-end tax planning strategies for you to consider:

1. Accelerate your income tax deductions;
2.Postpone receipt of income;
3.Don’t buy any capital assets this year;
4.Make gifts to charities and family foundations with appreciated assets;
5.Harvest losses to offset capital gains;
6.Establish and fund qualified retirement plans;
7.Identify assets and amounts to make grantor retained annuity trust payments before April 17, 2017;
8.Make annual exclusion gifts to friends and family of up to $28,000 per married couple;
9.Make distributions of income from trust/estate accounts to lower the income tax liability; and
10.Host annual meetings for your family office, business entities and foundations.

If you would like a free consultation to discuss the design and implementation of a tax plan for you and your business please contact us today.

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