Growing through Estate Planning: Lawmakers Offer New Options in This Vital, Often Overlooked Area

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Estate planning is not only encouraged, but deemed vital when preparing for the future. And planning for the inevitable extends far beyond legalizing one's wishes regarding financial assets - it protects families, both existing and future members.

Mark H. Price, business law and estate planning professional with the Andrews Davis law firm, said it is imperative that people are prepared.

If you don't provide for the disposition of your estate, the state of Oklahoma has written a will for you, Price said. And there are provisions in the statutes that decide how much a spouse gets and how much children get. It is extremely important that everyone consider what they want to do with their property and their family so that you don't have third parties intervene who have no ideas to what you might have wanted to do or what your desires or objectives are.

The Miami, Okla., native graduated from the University of Oklahoma law school in 1966, and he has worked from the same office at the Oklahoma City-based Andrews Davis law firm ever since. The firm has served local, national and international clients for more than six decades.

Price said he often tells people that spending time in developing an estate plan is about the most important gift that person can leave their heirs and family, given the emotional and financial tolls death takes on a family. If a person's affairs are not in good order, it just makes it a lot more difficult, he said. As a practical matter, no one knows more about your affairs than you, yourself. And you have worked hard and built up an estate and you need to make it go where you want it to go.

While many people assume the size of their estate directly relates to whether they should form a plan, Price said estate planning is something everyone needs to do - especially at the point in life when, for instance, a family enters the picture.

This is when, after learning about the client's financial matters, family makeup, medical needs and parental concerns, Price and team start discussing options.

We try to get a feel for their desires and objectives, he said. Then we will make recommendations to people and give ideas as to how you can provide either through wills or trusts or a combination thereof of managing or disposing of your property in the event of your death.

Recently, a new aspect to estate planning has entered the picture. House Bill 2135, by state Rep. Ron Peters, R-Tulsa, created the Family Wealth Preservation Trust Act, which provides that an individual grantor may transfer up to $1 million in assets to an Oklahoma Preservation Trust and have those assets protected from the grantor's future creditors. While supporters said the bill would attract out-of-state investment to Oklahoma, critics said the bill would allow individuals to shield assets from seizure by creditors who should be allowed to recoup their losses. …