What We Do
"We are an Estate Planning law firm, based in Tulsa, Oklahoma, whose purpose is to provide you with complete estate planning resources. We are here to guide you through the estate planning process, counsel you througn your family and business dynamics, and advise you how the law can affect your plans.
Life is constantly changing. The people who were in your life today may be new. And certainly some of these poeple will be gone just a few years from now. You know your money and assets are in a constant state of flux, changing day to day. And of course, the law is rarely a constant, as politics and world demands influence and shape our laws each year.
Money and Family, when mixed together, can result in interesting dynamics! And logical decisions do not necessarily produce the legal results you intended, as the law and logic are seldom the same. Sadly, when people make logical decisions concerning their estate plans without sound legal advice, the results may hurt the very people they were intending to bless.
Let us be your experienced Legal Counselors who will guide you through the complex issues surrounding you and your estate planning destination."
Meet Our Team
Karen L. Carmichael
Karen brings an extensive background in business and law to her estate planning practice. An attorney since 1985, Karen earned her law degree from the University of Tulsa, and did her undergraduate and master's degree work at Oklahoma State University.read more
Melissa A. Bell
Melissa has been practicing law since 2013 and brings a unique background to the firm.read more
Through the use of Living Trusts, Wills (simple & complex), Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Irrevocable Trusts, Family Limited Partnerships, and Charitable Gifting Strategies, our firm helps families preserve their wealth for future generations, minimize estate taxes, and avoid the expense and nightmare of probate. ... more>
Heritage Planning is a more holistic approach to estate planning. We help clients preserve their financial wealth and their legacy, including their life stories and family heirlooms, for future generations. Our non-traditional planning methods include special provisions and protections in Living Trusts, Wills (simple & complex), Powers of Attorney, Living Wills, Irrevocable Trusts, Family Limited Partnerships, and Charitable Gifting Strategies. This planning also includes minimizing estate taxes, avoiding the expense and nightmare of probate, protecting against remarriage after death of the 1st spouse, and protecting beneficiaries from a possible future divorce. ... more>
Family-Owned Businesses and Farms
Our law firm offers estate planning assistance for the unique needs of Family Businesses and Farms. We help clients preserve this important part of their legacy for future generations. ... more>
Asset Protection & Business Planning
We help clients who are small business owners and those who are most susceptible to being sued by assisting with Lawsuit and Asset Protection. We also assist with Business Succession Planning and Small Business Planning. Some of the tools and strategies used are Family Limited Partnerships, Limited Liability Companies and Buy-Sell Agreements. ... more>
Our law firm helps clients create a plan to handle their affairs in the event of an incapacity before they pass away. This includes planning to avoid a Living Probate or Guardianship proceeding. ... more>
IRA & Retirement Planning
Our law firm has experience in the complex area of estate planning with IRAs and other retirement plans. We help ensure clients and their beneficiaries are protected by employing tax reduction techniques. ... more>
Special Needs Planning
We offer assistance to clients who have special needs family members by creating Special Needs Estate Plans. These tailored plans help them preserve government benefits while having their loved one cared for in all areas of their life: financial, educational and medical, and most importantly, their emotional and personal needs in the future. ... more>
Trust Administration & Probate
We help families who have experienced the loss of a loved one with the ensuing Probate or Trust Administration process. ... more>
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TopicsFree Educational Seminars
The Law Office of Karen L. Carmichael & Associates, P.C., Attorneys at Law, presents free educational seminars on wide-variety of topics to groups or organizations. Those groups often include non-profit organizations, employers, associations, special interest groups, support groups and financial advisors in our community. For a list of topics, click the Read More link.read more
Upcoming Seminars[[SEMINAR INFO SHOULD DISPLAY HERE]]
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Frequently Asked Questions
Q. Why do I need an estate plan?
A. Most of us spend a considerable amount of time and energy in our lives accumulating wealth. With this, there comes a time to preserve wealth both for enjoyment and future generations. A solid, effective estate plan ensures that your hard-earned wealth will remain intact as it passes to your beneficiaries, instead of being siphoned off to government processes and bureaucrats.
Q. If I don't create an estate plan, won't the government provide one for me?
A. YES. But your family may not like it. The government's estate plan is called "Intestate Probate" and guarantees government interference in the disposition of your estate. Documents must be filed and approval must be received from a court to pay your bills, pay your spouse an allowance, and account for your property--and it all takes place in the public's view. If you fail to plan your estate, you lose the opportunity to protect your family from an impersonal, complex governmental process that can become a nightmare. Then there is the matter of the federal government's death taxes. There is much you can do in planning your estate that will reduce and even eliminate death taxes, but you don't suppose the government's estate plan is designed to save your estate from taxes, do you? While some estate planners favor Wills and others prefer a Living Trust as the Estate Plan of Choice, all estate planners agree that dying without an estate plan should be avoided at all costs.
Q: What's the difference between having a Will and a Living Trust?
A: A Will is a legal document that describes how your assets should be distributed in the event of death. The actual distribution, however, is controlled by a legal process called probate, which is Latin for "prove the Will." Upon your death, the Will becomes a public document available for inspection by all comers. And, once your Will enters the probate process, it's no longer controlled by your family, but by the court and probate attorneys. Probate can be cumbersome, time-consuming, expensive, and emotionally traumatic during a family's time of grief and vulnerability. Con artists and others with less-than-pure financial motives have been known to use their knowledge about the contents of a will to prey on survivors. A Living Trust avoids probate because your property is owned by the trust, so technically there's nothing for the probate courts to administer. Whomever you name as your "successor trustee" gains control of your assets and distributes them exactly according to your instructions. There is one other crucial difference: A Will doesn't take effect until your death, and is therefore no help to you during lifetime planning, an increasingly important consideration since Americans are now living longer. A Living Trust can help you preserve and increase your estate while you're alive, and offers protection should you become mentally disabled.
Q: What would happen if I were mentally disabled and had no estate plan or just a Will?
A: Unfortunately, you would be subject to "living probate," also known as a conservatorship or guardianship proceeding. If you become mentally disabled before you die, the probate court will appoint someone to take control of your assets and personal affairs. These "court-appointed agents" must file a strict accounting of your finances with the court. The process is often expensive, time-consuming and humiliating.
Q: If I set up a Living Trust, can I be my own trustee?
A: YES. In fact, people who create most Living Trusts act as their own trustees. If you are married, you and your spouse can act as co-trustees. And you will have absolute and complete control over all of the assets in your trust. In the event of a mentally disabling condition, your hand-picked successor trustee assumes control over your affairs, not the court's appointee.
Q: Will a Living Trust avoid income taxes?
A: NO. The purpose of creating a Living Trust is to avoid living probate, death probate, and reduce or even eliminate federal estate taxes. It's not a vehicle for reducing income taxes. In fact, if you're the trustee of your Living Trust, you will file your income tax returns exactly as you filed them before the trust existed. There are no new returns to file and no new liabilities are created.
Q: Can I transfer real estate into a Living Trust?
A: YES. In fact, all real estate should be transferred into your Living Trust. Otherwise, upon your death, depending on how you hold the title, there will be a death probate in every state in which you hold real property. When your real property is owned by your Living Trust, there is no probate anywhere.
Q: Is the Living Trust some kind of loophole the government will eventually close down?
A: NO. The Living Trust has been authorized by the law for centuries. The government really has no interest in making you or your family suffer a probate that will only further clog up the legal system. A Living Trust avoids probate so that your estate is settled exactly according to your wishes.
Q: Isn't a Living Trust only for the rich?
A: NO. A Living Trust can help anyone protect his or her family from unnecessary probate fees, attorney's fees, court costs and federal estate taxes. In certain circumstances even individuals with small estates can derive meaningful benefits
Q: Can any attorney create a Living Trust?
A: YES, but you would be better off choosing an attorney whose practice is focused on estate planning. Members of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys receive continuing legal education on the latest changes in any law affecting estate planning, allowing them to provide you with the highest quality estate planning service anywhere.
Questions and Answers
Q: Can a Living Trust be challenged?
A: Sure, it's America! Anyone can challenge anything in our courts. But the real issue is whether they would be successful. Living trusts are harder to challenge than Wills because typically they have been in place for a long period of time, therefore being less likely to be challenged as the creator of the trust having been subjected to undue influence or fraud. Also, a trust is a private document, so the terms of the trust might not be revealed to family members who are more likely to challenge it's terms. Whereas a Will becomes a document anyone may read in a probate.
Q: Isn't my Living Will all I need if I get sick?
A: A Living Will (Advanced Directive for Healthcare) authorizes your healthcare Agent to remove you from life sustaining treatment, or enforce your decision to be given (or remove) artificial hydration. It is insufficient, however, for anything short of "pulling the plug."
Because a Living Will does not contain HIPAA (Privacy Act) authorizations, it does not authorize such activities as allowing your Agent to pick up your prescriptions, give directions to other healthcare professionals, nor does it allow your doctor to discuss with them your condition.
Be sure you have provided adequate legal authorization with a good Health Care Power of Attorney, in addition to a Living Will, so you can be cared for upon your illness, not just authorizing your Agent to make the final decision as to when you should be removed from life sustaining treatment.
Q: What's the difference between a Will and a Trust?
A: A Will is a legal document that describes how you want your assets distributed at death. The Will must be activated, however, by a legal process called probate, which is Latin for "prove the Will." Once your Will enters the probate process, it's no longer controlled by your family, but by the court, the attorneys, and the probate process. A Living Trust avoids probate because your property is owned by the Trust, so technically there's nothing for the probate courts to administer.
The other crucial difference is that a Will doesn't take effect until you die. Therefore, it cannot help you with lifetime planning for situations like a disabling injury or mental degeneration. Our firm can help determine which estate plan is best for you.
Q: Isn't a Will form downloaded from the Internet adequate?
A: Even a simple will can run into trouble if all the rules aren't followed. In Oklahoma, a will is not considered valid if it is not original and has been properly executed according to state law. If a step is missed, many courts will declare the will invalid and then distribute your property according to intestate laws; which may be the people you didn’t want to receive your things upon your death. Even if properly executed, a do-it-yourself Will may also take longer to probate because the judge may question the process used in executing the will, requiring the witnesses to validate the Will.
The Will you receive from Karen L. Carmichael & Associates, P.C., an experienced estate planning law firm, will be properly executed pursuant to Oklahoma laws.
Q: Can my estate end up in the hands of a "soon-to-be-ex" inlaw?
A: It's possible. With the divorce rate hovering around 50%, you cannot ignore this reality. In some states, a divorcing spouse can walk away with 50% of the inheritance you leave your child or grandchild if things are not properly set up in advance. You worked hard for your nest egg and planned carefully to make sure it was transferred to the right hands, but you may not have thought out every possibility. When assets are distributed to children being cared for by an ex-spouse, the ex-spouse, as guardian, has complete control over how the inheritance is managed. A good estate plan will make provisions for such eventualities so that your assets will reach only those family members whom you intended to bless.
Q: I just remarried. Is my old trust still good?
A: According to Oklahoma law, once the divorce is final, all provisions in the trust in favor of your former spouse, which are to take effect upon your death, are immediately revoked. In a typical first-time married couple's trust, the couple usually wants the surviving spouse to have access to all the assets at the first spouse's death. Then they want the assets split equally among the children upon the survivor's death. This plan is ineffective if the marriage upon which the plan was based has failed. Upon remarriage, you and your estate planning attorney needs to discuss who you should place in authority to manage the trust, and the new beneficiaries who are now in your life, as well as how it will affect those who remain.
Q: I have a blended family. Do I have to do anything special to make sure my kids get their inheritance?
A: Increasingly, Americans do not remain with their first spouse for life. Statistics show that one-half of all marriages fail within the first 20 years. During that time children and assets become part of the mix. Not only are the children's backgrounds and demands different, but so may be the financial positions of each spouse. Therefore, upon remarriage, blended families bring even more challenges for estate planning. A growing number of blended families will use a combination of two Trusts to gain greater flexibility. Additionally, a Children's Trust or an Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust may be necessary to meet your blended family needs.
Each blended family is unique with its own set of goals to accomplish. Proper estate planning can tailor a solution to help meet these goals.
Q: Could you be accidently married?!
A: You may be married and not realize it. Oklahoma recognizes common law marriage. If you hold yourself out to the public as being married, have joint accounts, name each other on policies or employment forms as each other's spouse while cohabiting, you might be married.
Once you enter into a common law marriage, there is no such thing as common law divorce, even if you formally marry another person.
A common law marriage, particularly one you are not aware of, can have far-reaching consequences. It can render a later marriage null and void. It can even disrupt a meticulously planned estate, giving unanticipated inheritance rights to a common law spouse and denying other family members their inheritance. Although you never made it "official," if you die, in the eyes of the law, you might have been married, whether you meant to be, or not.
Q: How soon can I get my inheritance?
A: Everyone dreams of suddenly getting an inheritance upon the closing of the casket, right after the reading of will. But that's more the stuff from which movies are made. Settling an estate is a multi-step process. Before inheritances can be distributed, assets have to be valued, creditors identified, and debts paid. In many cases, the process is subject to court supervision and approval, which means additional time and paperwork. If the estate is large enough, an estate tax return must be filed and the taxing authority issue a release before distribution can be made. Therefore, while some estates settle quickly, it is not unusual for an heir to wait a year to eighteen months before receiving an inheritance.
An experienced attorney can be a helpful advisor if you are in the position to receive an inheritance, as well as make an estate plan.
Q: My Child can't earn a living because he is a Special Needs child. Can I leave him my insurance policy upon my death?
A: When a child has physical, emotional or mental challenges, careful estate planning is critical. If your child is on SSI government assistance, leaving that child money directly through an insurance policy will cause him to lose all of his government assistance, including hospitalization. However, with a good estate plan, the parent can provide for the child without jeopardizing the child's eligibility for government and private benefit programs. If the child receives monies directly, always know, government benefits can be lost.
Parents of Special Needs children face a greater imperative to ensure that their child is well cared for upon their deaths. Talk to your estate planning attorney immediately if you have a child or grandchild receiving government assistance, and protect their future.
Q: What's the difference between a revocable and irrevocable trust?
A: A revocable trust can be changed at any time by the person who created the trust. After creating, signing, and funding the trust, the grantor can change his or her mind about the terms of the trust, like renaming beneficiaries or trustees, or even discontinuing the trust. An Irrevocable trust is one that once established and funded, cannot be changed. It's much like giving away the assets, and has similar tax ramifications.
Trusts are not an easy subject to understand, and the laws and regulations keep changing. It is important to use a reputable practitioner in the field, and not try to use one you've downloaded from the internet. Your trust should be current, and tailored to fit you and your family's needs.
Click HERE to view Gun Trust information.
Some Family Fights Preventable
Click HERE to view Commerce and Legal News article "Some Family Fights Preventable."
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Our AddressKaren Carmichael and Associates, P.C.
110 W 7th St, Suite 900
Tulsa, OK 74119
Telephone: (918) 493-4939
EXCITING NEWS – WE'VE MERGED!
The Law Offices of Karen L. Carmichael & Associates, P.C. merged with Barrow & Grimm, P.C. (Address-left). You can still reach out to us, Melissa Bell, Atty.–Probate and Guardianship matters, and Kristine Fisher, Legal Asst.–calendar and appts. Also find us at: www.barrowgrimm.com.
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