Estate Planning

Estate plans are uniquely crafted for each person. They can be a complex set of numerous documents to address a lots of assets or smaller collection of papers to give your family clarity in your wishes. Your plan will be specific to you based on your assets and wishes. Before putting an estate plan together your attorney review with you all of your assets and wishes so that it will be clear to those you love and the Court that will validate them.

Estate plans are very personal, so they vary. It can be a complex set of numerous documents to address a large set of assets or it can be a simpler collection of papers to give your family some clarity in your wishes. Your plan will be specific to you based on your assets and end of life desires. When putting an estate plan together your attorney will go into a detailed review of your assets so that it will be clear to those you love and the Court.

When evaluating the needs of an estate plan we will look to your assets, such as; real estate, personal property, retirement/pension accounts, cash assets, and others. This will help determine the needs of your estate plan. For most people, a will is enough for addressing the needs of an estate. In Louisiana there are two types of recognized wills, or testaments, each with their own legal requirements to be valid. First, an olographic will, is a handwritten will that is signed by the testator. It is often what you see in movies. The second, a notarial will, is one most likely to be completed with an attorney. It requires an authentic act, to be signed before a notary and two witnesses. Notarial wills have a higher legal standard for execution because they are self-authenticating and harder to challenge in court. It is important that the will is completed perfectly, because any errors could result in the will be found invalid.

There are several benefits to having a will. First, it avoids the default rules of intestate succession. Intestate succession would result in following your family line until a valid heir is found. To find an heir the rules first first downward to your descendants (children) but if none are there, then upward to your antecedences (parents). If there are heirs of the same class they would share in the estate equally. If you wish to specify what property goes to whom, then you must have a will to express that. Second, it clearly conveys to your friends and family what your actual wishes are. If you do not have a will then your family could be uncertain about what it is that you desired, both in the distribution of your assets as well as in your funeral arrangements.

For more complex estates a trust or business organization might be beneficial. Trusts in Louisiana are a transfer of property from a person, the grantor, to a trustee to be held and managed for the benefit of a person, the beneficiary. They are complicated legal tools with specific purposes. They are more often used when either there is a need to create a longer-term monthly income for a family member or when there is real estate in multiple different states. The other common reason to establish a trust is for the purpose of avoiding a succession case for the administration of your estate. Trusts are not as common and would only arise in certain situations.

Another important factor for Louisiana estate planning is community property. Louisiana is a community property state which means that all property gained during a marriage is the property of the marriage and not the individual. Property gained prior to marriage is separate property. The community property rules can create for additional considerations that needs to be considered. It also means that married couples need to each create their own individual estate plan to administer their portion of the community property. 

Clearly the estate planning process is a complicated one. The assistance of an attorney can go a long way to make sure that your wishes can be fulfilled with concise legal documents that are enforceable.