Louisiana Succession

If You Have a Revocable Living Trust, Then Why Do You Need a Last Will and Testament?

If you have a Revocable Living Trust, do you need a Last Will and Testament?

When someone dies with assets in their name, like real estate, or interests in a business, or investments, those assets will be frozen when they die, even if they have a Will disposing of them, and their survivors are stuck hiring lawyers and all will go through a court process commonly referred to as probate, or in Louisiana, a Succession.

Many people, in an effort to simplify their estate settlement and avoid the court process, often create a revocable living trust, and they transfer title of their assets to their trust while they are alive, so that when they pass away, the court process is avoided because assets in a trust bypass the whole “settle your estate through the court system” process. You simply designate a Successor Trustee of your trust who can immediately sell or disburse assets from your trust to your trust beneficiaries, all outside of government supervision.

Your trust replaces the Will because the trust instrument governs who gets what as it relates to trust assets.

But even if you establish your revocable living trust, you still need to have a Will just in case assets are in your name when you die. Maybe you left something out of trust. Perhaps you acquired an asset or account in your name after you established your trust, and you forgot to title it in the name of your trust.

Someone who utilizes a revocable living trust often has a last will that is often referred to as their “pour-over” Will because it pours over the assets in your name at your death to your trust. It is there only as a "catch-all" to cover assets that should have been, but were not for some reason, put in your trust before you died.

Now, your pour-over Will may never be used because everything you have either has a beneficiary designation, is titled in the name of your trust when you die, or survivors will somehow have access to the asset upon your death.

So, in summary, if you have a revocable living trust that is designed to avoid probate and provide for the distribution of your estate when you die, you’ll also have a Will, but your Will may never need to be used because the Will is there as a "catch-all" to allow for the transfer of assets that are in your name when you die and require a probate to access.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Why You Don't Need a Death Certificate to Begin the Louisiana Succession

Here's the typical situation: Survivors of the deceased wait to schedule something with the estate attorney until after the family receives the death certifcates - which always takes either weeks or months to come in. Finally, they sit down with the estate attorney, like myself, and say something like, "Well, before we get started, let me give you a death certificate because I know you will be needing this. Do you want an original or copy?"

Then, I respond to their dismay, "I don't need one."

Death certificates are not typically filed at the courthouse as part of the Louisiana Succession process. While the judge needs proof that the deceased actually died, along with information about whether they were married, where they lived, when the deceased died, and whether they had children, the judge does not need to see a death certificate. These facts are typically evidenced, or proven, by affidavits.

Typically, instead of filing death certificates at the courthouse, two people who have knowledge of the above mentioned facts each sign what is commonly referred to as an, "Affidavit of Death, Domicile, and Heirship."

The statement we often hear from survivors that "It won't do any good to see the attorney because we don't have death certificates yet," is inaccurate. Waiting weeks or months to get the death certificates is unnecessary waiting.

What do you need to get started on the Louisiana Probate (also known as "Succession")? You need the original Will, if one exists, and you need two people familiar with the family circumstances (such as a surviving spouse or adult children) to sign the appropriate Affidavits of Death, Domicile, and Heirship."

In addition, if you can compile a list of assets and debts of the deceased as of the date of death, that would be helpful, but this detailed information typically is needed later, not at the very beginning.

The family WILL need death certificates to, for example, have the executor open an estate account after the judge confirms the executor (or appoints an administrator). And after the judge signs the final Judgment of Possession, which orders third parties to transfer assets to heirs, the heirs will need a death certificate, with this Judgment, before the financial institution will release the funds or investments to the heirs listed in this Judgment.

Since delays are one of the main complaints about probate, it makes sense to meet with the attorney and get started on this process as soon as practical after the death of a loved one, rather than delaying until you receive death certificates, which can take weeks or months to arrive.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Will Our Joint Accounts Be OK If My Husband Dies With Children From Prior Marriage?

If a husband and wife have joint bank accounts that are community property, and neither has an estate legal program in place, and one of them dies with a child or children from a prior marriage, can the surviving spouse's step-child(ren) give that surviving spouse grief?

You betcha! Often when asked about joint bank accounts, the spouses are concerned that the accounts will be frozen when the first spouse dies, leaving the spouse unable to pay for funeral expenses and other ongoing bills. We often tell couples to ask their bank whether the account will be frozen when one of them dies.

But the potential problem goes much deeper than that. If the husband died first (with a child or children and no legal plan in place), his surviving wife shall have a usufruct over the husband's share of the community property.

And our Louisiana laws regarding usufruct and security provide that the usufructuary (in this matter, the surviving wife) shall give security that she will use the property subject to usufruct as a prudent administrator and that she will faithfully fulfill all of her obligations as usufructuary. Now in certain matters, this security is dispensed with. But not when the naked owner (the husband's child(ren)) is not a child of the usufructuary (the surviving wife).

This security which the surviving wife must provide shall be in the amount of the total value of the property subject to usufruct. So the more she has the usufruct over (bank accounts, investments, real estate, vehicles, etc.) the more security she must provide.

So, while it is not uncommon for a surviving spouse to have access to joint bank accounts she has with her deceased husband, it IS common, if the deceased spouse had no legal plan, that the deceased husband's children will require their step-parent to post a bond or security in order to protect their future inheritance. This security can be expensive on an annual basis.

While joint accounts may not be frozen, surviving spouse and his or her step-children will be required to go through a court process together (often called "Succession" or "Probate"). Each will be represented by a lawyer or lawyers. All assets of the couple get disclosed in the court pleadings, and the deceased's children will require their surviving step-parent to post a bond as security to protect their future inheritance.

It's at this point that things often turn ugly. We'll usually hear something like, "I hope she happy because I'll never speak to her again."

Or we'll hear, "If she's going to be that vindictive, just give her the damn money."

Note that many, if not all, of these problems can be avoided by taking a little effort to work with the right estate attorney to put the right estate legal program in place. Heck, you've earned it. Now it's time to protect it.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Will Prepared Through Suze Orman Kit Invalid in Louisiana

I was contacted recently after a father passed away. The adult children were hoping to get their father's estate settled quickly and easily. They mentioned that their father had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, that the diagnosis allowed only a short time to live, so he did a "quickie" Suze Orman will to specify how he wanted to leave his estate.

When I heard about the Will, I told myself I needed to see it. The son told me that the Will was three pages long. I said, "Hang up. Take a picture of each page and text them to me." He did.

Whenever I review a Will for the first time, I always look for two things. First, I confirm that the Will meets the validity requirements for a last will and testament. And second, I look at the actual words and terms used in the Will for bequests, appointments, and other ancillary provisions.

In general, it's pretty easy to make a valid will. But the trickery comes in using all of the right terms in all of the right places.

In this matter though, it took me about three seconds to determine that the Will was invalid.

In Louisiana, there are two types of Wills: olographic and notarial. The olographic will is entirely handwritten. This will was typed. The notarial testament is typically typed, but must be signed "at the end of the testament and on each other separate page." Of the three pages, only one was signed.

In addition, to be a valid notarial testament, the notary and two witnesses must sign a certain declaration that is inserted at the end of the testament. In this Will, there was no notary signature, just the signatures of two witnesses.

So, in about three seconds. I discovered two reasons that this Will is invalid. And yet, there was a third problem. For a notarial testament to be valid, the notary and witnesses must sign a declaration that is worded as described in our Louisiana statute. The declaration in the Will must be at least "substantially similar" to the declaration provided in the Louisiana statute. The declaration at the end of this purported Will was not substantially similar to the declaration provided by Louisiana law.

Since the Will was invalid, it didn't make sense to even look at the terms of the purported Will, since they would have no legal effect - at all. It's unfortunate that this man's final wishes to leave his legacy a certain way would not be followed. Instead, state law will determine who inherits his estate.

The moral of this story is that you should be careful about using the "do-it-yourself" estate planning tools that are out there. Many things can and do go wrong when you attempt to take shortcuts in the estate process.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Pros and Cons of Leaving Everything to Your Spouse

When married couples engage in estate planning, one of the questions they often are required to answer is, "If I die before my spouse, do I want to leave complete ownership and control of my estate to my spouse?" Or, "Do I want to leave my estate to my spouse in a way that my children (or other heirs) are protected?"

Leaving all of your assets to your spouse is pretty easy to understand - when you die, your spouse owns everything. Maybe you are thinking that it is ok to leave everything to your spouse because you are confident that when your spouse dies, your spouse will leave it all to your kids. Or maybe you like the thought of leaving your estate to your spouse because your descendants circumstances may change after you die and you want your spouse to be able to leave the estate to your descendants the right way.

However, if you leave your estate to your spouse, your spouse "could" leave your estate to people other than your children, like your spouse's next spouse!

Some people want to leave their estate to their spouse in a way that their children or heirs are protected. The two common ways to do this are (1) in trust; and (2) via the Louisiana usufruct.

Leaving your estate to your spouse may be the best overall tax outcome, but it used to be the worst. In the old days, it did not make sense to leave your estate to your spouse because when you lumped your estate on top of your spouse's estate, it caused the spouse's estate to be subject to a 50% or more federal estate tax upon the death of the surviving spouse. But now, with an $11.4 million estate tax inclusion, and with portability (making it easier for married couples to exempt $22.8 million from the estate tax), rarely are couples penalized for leaving everything to each other.

The tax benefit that often results from leaving your estate to your spouse is that your heirs will benefit from a "double step up" in basis, for capital gains tax purposes. In community property states (like Louisiana) all community property gets a new stepped-up basis when the first spouse dies. And when you leave all of your assets to your spouse, all of the assets will get another step-up in basis when your spouse later dies. This can save considerable capital gains tax when assets are later sold, particularly if there is appreciation that occurs from the date of death of the first spouse to the date of death of the surviving spouse.

In addition, if you live in Louisiana, you are prohibited from leaving your entire estate to your spouse if you have forced heirs. Forced heirs are children of your that, at the time of your death, are 23 years of age or younger, or, are of any age but incapacitated.

Leaving assets to the surviving spouse is common for traditional families - one marriage and all children are from the one marriage. And if you really want to make it as simple as possible on your spouse when you pass away, consider establishing a revocable living trust and titling the appropriate assets in your trust. Assets in your living trust don't go through the court-supervised probate/Succession procedure, so having your assets in your living trust will prevent your spouse from having to hire lawyers and go through the courts just to get ownership of your assets after you die.

Other factors that are typically discussed when married couples engage in estate planning legal services include: who makes your decisions when you are incapable; protecting assets from long term care costs; and how will assets be managed and disbursed after both spouses pass away. These are all important components of any estate planning legal program.

Note also that if you have no legal plans in place, Louisiana laws won't do your spouse any favors. These laws will favor your descendants much more than your spouse.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Should You Have a Will or Living Trust?

When people put their legal affairs in order, they have a decision to make. One of the questions they have to answer is, “ Should I use a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) as the legal instrument to pass along my estate to my heirs, or should I use a Revocable Living Trust (“Living Trust”)?

Let’s start with the basics. If you use a Will to pass your estate to your survivors, you’ll like have provisions leaving your estate, or parts of it, to your spouse, your children or others, or perhaps even leaving assets to a trust the terms of which are part of your Will (called a “testamentary trust”) that will be established with assets after your death.

With a “Will Plan,” you leave title to all your assets in your name: your home, your other real estate, your investments, and so forth. When you die, your assets are frozen (even though you had a Will), and your survivors must retain an attorney or attorneys to go through the court-supervised process of transferring assets to the people who are named in your Will.

If you have a Living Trust, your Living Trust will be prepared, for example, so that after you pass away, your trust provides that your estate, or parts of it, are to be transferred from your trust to your spouse, your children or others, or assets may remain in trust for the benefit of minors, irresponsible heirs, or heirs who are receiving government benefits so that they should not inherit assets in their name. When you establish your Living Trust, you will likely work with your estate attorney to transfer title of assets to your trust, such as your home, other real estate, investments, and so forth.

When you die, trust assets are not frozen. Attorneys and the court system do not have to get involved in the trust settlement because the court system only governs assets that are titled in your name when you die. In your Living Trust, you designated a Successor Trustee or Co-Trustees who will have immediate authority to transfer assets from your trust. Many people perceive it that their Living Trust replaces the Will.

So, which program should you have? It’s ultimately your decision, and some people make decisions like this based on their prior life experiences. Will clients often tell us something like, “When my mother died 12 years ago, I don’t remember her probate being too difficult. We had to do the probate to get the house in our names, but we were not in a big hurry.”

We hear from some Will clients the something like the following, “I don’t have any children so if my distant relatives and favorite charities named in my Will have to go through probate, so be it…I’ll be dead.”

Trust clients often tell us something like, “When my father died, his probate took years and it was difficult and expensive, and I don’t want my kids to go through that, so let’s set up a Living Trust.”

We’ll also hear, “My spouse and I want to make things as easy as we can on the surviving spouse when one of us passes, so let’s establish a Trust.”

Other Living Trust clients say, “If my spouse and I can establish a Living Trust and avoid the future delays and expenses of two probates (one when each of us dies), then a Living Trust seems like a no-brainer.”

And other Living Trust clients tell us, “We pre-arranged our funerals to make things as easy on our survivors and we’d like to do the same kind of pre-planning and pre-arrangements for our estate.”

Now, if you go the Living Trust route, make sure you watch my popular YouTube video titled, “If You Have a Revocable Living Trust, Watch This Now,” which address the important topic of trust funding.

Bottom line or Will vs. Living Trust? Take action. Talk to an estate attorney. Hopefully the attorney’s own biases don’t preclude you from making an informed decision. But get started. Failing to act puts the government in complete control of your estate, and who wants that?

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Two Types of Louisiana Last Wills: Part One - The Olographic Testament

In Louisiana, there are only two forms of valid Wills (known by our Louisiana law as “testaments.” The two forms are: olographic and notarial. This post addresses the less popular olographic (some people refer to it as an “holographic” Will).

When we discuss whether a handwritten Will is valid, we must look to the terms of the Louisiana statute that defines and olographic testament. Note that there are many, many court cases where lawyers have argued, and judges have determined, whether someone’s handwritten attempt at a Will is valid, and if so, how it should be interpreted.

Nonetheless, our Louisiana law states that “An olographic testament is one entirely written, dated, and signed in the handwriting of the testator.” The statute goes on to state, in part, what it means to be dated and signed, including the fact that writings after the signature do not make the testament invalid and such writing may be considered by the court, in its discretion, as part of the testament.

Many people think that if they just meet the validity requirements of an olographic testament, then everything will go hunky-dory when they pass away. But those people should think again.

It’s easy to make a valid olographic testament, but problems often surface after the death of the testator because the wording was either insufficient, ambiguous, errors were made, reasonable contingencies were not addressed, or bequests were made outright to people when they should not have due to age or financial immaturity.

The bottom line on Louisiana olographic Wills is that it is possible, if not simple, to write your own Will that would be recognized by a Louisiana court as a valid Will. However, if the reason you attempted to write your own Will was to save some costs today, know that the future costs to your estate and your heirs (both financial and emotional costs) will far outweigh any savings you felt you realized by making your own olographic testament.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

What Legal Matters to Address When Loved One Dies Unexpectedly

This post describes what estate legal issues typically get addressed after the unexpected death of a loved one.

Many people pass away after a long life due to natural causes, or they pass away after a prolonged illness. The death does not come as a shock or surprise to survivors, and the legal affairs are often in order with trusted loved ones having access to all of the estate information.

However, sometimes death comes completely unexpected, perhaps due to a medical issue (for example, a heart attack) or due to some type of accident. When this happens, questions often instantly arise among the survivors. Questions like:

Did he have his legal affairs in order?

Did she have a will or a trust?

How do we cover funeral expenses?

What did the deceased own and owe?

How will income taxes be handled?

What happens to all personal effects?

How do we deal with the deceased's business?

How do the monthly bills keep getting paid?

Who is responsible for dealing with all of this?

All of these questions that survivors have often lead to a statement, "We need to talk to an estate lawyer."

Perhaps the best reason to talk to an estate settlement lawyer sooner rather than later is because there is so much uncertainty that can be eliminated by talking to an estate attorney that can quickly map out a suggested plan of action to deal with the various estate issues involved.

If you are in this circumstance, make sure you quickly locate the last will and testament or trust of the deceased - the last will needs to be filed at the courthouse.

Although every estate settlement is unique, it often helps when all of the "parties" gather together for a meeting with the estate attorney. The "parties" will include the executor that is named in a will, along with all of the people who will inherit from the deceased.

These parties often have questions and they may be nervous that estate issues will be handled improperly. However, when all of the parties get together with an estate attorney who can lay out a plan for getting all matters addressed, the parties often start gaining peace of mind. When the parties know that communication will flow freely, and there will be transparency throughout the estate settlement process, heirs start to let their guard down because they know that their rights are going to be preserved. It's usually the failure to communicate, and the uncertainty from the failure to communicate, the causes heirs to lose trust in one another, and then relationships get damaged - often permanently.

Even though every estate settlement is different, most start with the family producing the last will and testament, and then the estate attorney prepares and files the necessary court pleading at the courthouse, to get the executor "confirmed." If no last will and testament exists, then the court will often appoint an "administrator" to handle the things that an executor would have handled if an executor was named in a will.

Once the executor is confirmed by a judge, or an administrator appointed by a judge, then that personal representative can gain access to information from third parties regarding estate details, and the personal representative can open an estate account and get access to the deceased's previously frozen accounts.

From there, a good estate attorney will develop a good short and long term plan for dealing with the various estate issues, and few surprises will surface during the process because a good estate settlement plan was created from the get-go.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Banks and Brokerage Firms: We Hardly Use Letters Testamentary These Days

After a Louisiana resident passes away, a surviving loved one often goes to the deceased's bank, credit union, or brokerage firm, in an effort to settle the estate of their loved one. The financial institution promptly responds by saying something like, "Your loved one's accounts at this financial institution are all frozen. You must bring back "Letters Testamentary" or "Letters of Administration" in order to gain access to funds.

These days, the financial institutions are asking for the wrong things. They should be requesting "Letters of Independent Executorship" or "Letters of Independent Administration."

Since 2001, Louisiana has authorized the independent administration of estates - less court supervision. Virtually all Wills written since 2001 authorize this procedure. And if a Will does not authorize it, then the heirs can agree to operate under this independent administration procedure.

After a death, when the family gets the executor confirmed, and if the executor is acting as an independent executor (which is the case in an overwhelming majority of Successions), the court does not issue "Letters Testamentary." The court issues "Letters of Independent Executorship."

So the bank requests Letters Testamentary, and then we have to tell them that we will not give them what the bank is requesting. We will give them Letters of Independent Executorship.

It would be easier on everyone if the financial institution tells the survivors of its clients and customers that they can bring in the Letters of Independent Executorship to gain access to the funds of the deceased.

To some, this may seem to be a trivial matter. But when we deal with so many confused survivors, anything the legal and financial industries can do to help those in need at a difficult time would make everyone's job easier. Just my two cents.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

Value Estate Assets High or Low After Death?

When working with surviving family members after the death of a loved one, the survivors often want my help to help them deploy a strategy to value the assets of the deceased. The survivors often want to know whether estate assets should be valued high or low. I typically tell them that this is not a "game" that they can play, they are bound to have assets valued at "fair market value." Nonetheless, some people feel they can wiggle the values if it benefits them.

Very few estate are subject to the 40% federal estate tax. However, those survivors who face an estate tax typically want to see assets valued as low as reasonable in order to avoid as much of the 40% estate tax as possible.

Survivors of estates that do not have to face the federal estate tax, however, may have the opposite strategy. Since estate assets benefit from the step up in basis, survivors often want estate assets valued as high as reasonably possible in order to get the maximum step-up in basis. 

Certain assets owned by a deceased are not subject to varying fair market values. Cash, bank accounts, and publicly traded securities are easily valued as of the date of death - merely determine the account balances.

Other assets, however, are subject to subjective determinations of fair market value. Land, rental property, other real estate, and ownership interests in a business, are often difficult to value as of the date of death of the owner.

The IRS has a definition of fair market value. The IRS defines fair market value as the amount that which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or sell, with both parties having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

Our system is not necessarily set up as a "game" that survivors can play and arbitrarily determine fair market value after their family members die. Nonetheless, when estate tax is an issue, heirs often attempt to encourage appraisers to appraise assets "low." While when estate tax is not an issue, survivors want to see assets assets valued "high" to take maximum advantage of the step-up in basis. And since so few estates are subject to estate tax these days, most estates benefit from the "higher" valuations.

Note that these rules do not apply to IRAs. There is no step up in basis of investments inside an IRA. Any distributions from a traditional IRA are subject to income tax.

Also, some Louisiana residents mistakenly believe that the asset value listed in the Sworn Detailed List of Assets and Liabilities filed in the deceased's Succession proceeding is the end-all, say-all when it comes to estate valuation. But of course the IRS can always question any valuation the family puts on the Sworn Descriptive List.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Disclaimer or Renunciation an Effective Post-Death Estate Planning Tool

Sometimes, believe it or not, it makes good tax or legal sense to formally refuse (also known as "disclaim" or "renounce") an inheritance.

Example: Dad dies and leaves assets to Mom. Mom doesn't need the assets and she wants to see the children enjoy their inheritance from their father. Mom might disclaim the inheritance.

Example: Mom dies leaving her estate to her two children. One child decides that he does not need the inheritance and decides to renounce and allow (due to Mom's governing documents) child's children to receive the inheritance. Disclaiming prevents the child from having to accept the inheritance and then give it away pursuant to federal gift tax annual exclusion limits.

Example: A Traditional IRA owner dies. The primary beneficiary decides that it makes more tax sense to disclaim her portion of the IRA and allow the IRA to pass along to the contingent beneficiaries because the taxable required distributions will be smaller to the contingent beneficiaries.

A "Disclaimer" is generally a federal tax term which allows people to formally refuse an inheritance. It prevents someone from having to accept an inheritance, and then donate it away. Particular disclaimer tax rules must be followed, including the requirement that the disclaimer be in writing, within nine months of death, and the disclaimant cannot accept any of the benefits of the disclaimed assets.

Renunciation is the Louisiana term for this. If a renunciation is to take place, it must do so in that window of opportunity after the date of death but before the disclaimant receives any assets or other benefit from an inheritance.

Disclaimer/Renunciation planning should be considered in many estate planning programs, both the post-death opportunities should be explored, and the incorporation of written disclaimer provisions in your governing will or trust legal documents as you put your estate planning legal program into effect.

One area where some get confused is that you cannot renounce an inheritance to get out of paying your debts or to get out of paying for the nursing home. Your creditor may accept your succession rights if you renounce them to the prejudice of your creditor's rights. And the Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid Manual treats a renunciation as if you accepted the inheritance and then gave it away - triggering penalties for uncompensated transfers of resources.

Again, really important that you work with the right people to set things up the right way, the first time.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

The Louisiana Usufruct: Who is Liable for Repairs?

This post describes who is liable for repairs when someone owns the usufruct of property, while others are naked owners.

It's common in Louisiana for a spouse to leave their surviving spouse the usufruct of property. Here's an example: Wife and Husband marry, each for the second time. They each have children from their prior marriages. Wife owns the home they live in. Wife doesn't want Husband to be homeless if she predeceases him, so she writes a will and leaves Husband the lifetime usufruct of her home, and she names her children (Husband's step-children) as the naked owners of her home.

Wife dies. Husband and Wife's children somehow cooperate enough to complete the Succession. Husband is now living in the home. And let's say the home is 40 years old and in need of constant repair. Who is responsible for these repairs. The usufructuary? The naked owners?

There are several Louisiana laws that address liability for repairs in these circumstances. The general rule is that the usufructuary is responsible for ordinary maintenance and repairs, while the naked owner is responsible for extraordinary repairs, unless the usufructuary's fault or neglect cause the extraordinary repairs to become necessary.

Extraordinary repairs are those for the reconstruction of the whole or a substantial part of the property subject to usufruct. All others are ordinary repairs. As you might imagine, usufructaries will argue that all repairs are extraordinary. Naked owners will argue that all repairs are ordinary. 

During the existence of the usufruct, a naked owner can compel the usufuctuary to make the repairs for which the usufructuary is responsible. 

But the usufructuary may not compel the naked owner to make the extraordinary repairs for which the naked owner is responsible. And if the naked owner refuses to make these extraordinary repairs, the usufructuary may do so, and the usufructuary shall be reimbursed without interest by the naked owner at the end of the usufruct.

If, in the above example, the usufruct does not end until the death of the usufructuary, then the usufructuary's estate will likely seek this reimbursement from the naked owners after the usufructuary dies.

In addition, there are even more rules that address when, for example, a usufructuary abandons his usufruct, or when property has been totally destroyed through accident, but this post should give the basic information you may be looking for regarding the liability for repairs.

Make sure you address these things the right way on the front end so they don't became a disaster on the back end. Work with the right estate planning attorney who will listen to your objectives and suggest the best ways for you to leave a legacy behind - instead of a mess that winds up in court.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Collation Explained - Louisiana Estate Planning Law

When someone asks me what "Collation" means, it's typically because they've seen the word referenced in a last will and testament, and they don't know what it means.

This post describes a little history and current application of Louisiana collation law.

Back in the pre-1990's, there was a presumption in Louisiana estate law that parents were supposed to, from an inheritance standpoint, treat their children equally. If a parent made a gift to one child during the parent's lifetime, collation laws required that gift to be considered as an advance on that child's inheritance. 

So, back in the pre-1990's, parents were permitted, in their last will and testament, to dispense their lifetime gifts from collation so that lifetime gifts would not be considered an advance on a child's inheritance.

Then, in the 1990's the Louisiana Collation law changed significantly in a way that reduces the scope and application of collation by limiting the right to demand collation to children who qualify as forced heirs, and collation only applies with respect to gifts made within three years prior to the parent's death.

Now, under collation law, if a child is 24 and not otherwise disabled,  he or she is not permitted to demand collation. And a grandchild is not permitted to demand collation, even if he or she qualifies as a forced heir.

Nonetheless, many attorneys still include a provision in their client's wills stating, in effect, that the client's lifetime gifts are exempt from collation.

I haven't seen or heard anyone around our office discuss a potential collation claim in decades. Collation claims just don't come up much any more due to its limited scope. I suppose, however, it does not hurt to keep the "dispense from collation" provision in Louisiana last wills, even though it causes some confusion because clients have no idea what it means. 

However, now with this post, you know!

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Deceased Owned Property in Many Parishes: How To Transfer To Heirs in a Succession

This post describes how the real estate of a deceased person, who owned property in multiple Louisiana parishes, gets transferred the right way to the heirs.

We recently started working on a Succession. The deceased lived in Jefferson parish but owned property in several different parishes. He didn't own property in Jefferson Parish, but he owned property in St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Plaquemines, and St. Landry Parishes. The daughter, who was named the executor of her father's Will, thought she was going to have to travel all around the state to register the children as the new owner of all of their father's property.

I explained the procedure for getting the property transferred as follows:

(1) Succession Opened. The proceeding to open a Succession after someone dies must be brought in the district court of the parish where the deceased was domiciled at the time of his death. In this matter, the deceased was domiciled in Jefferson Parish, even though he did not own a home or other real estate in Jefferson Parish. All court pleadings, petitions, Lists of Assets and Debts, court orders, and all other court documents of the Succession will be filed in the Jefferson Parish Succession Suit record.

(2) Judgment of Possession. At the conclusion of the Succession, the district court judge in Jefferson Parish will sign a court order that we prepare called a Judgment of Possession. We will ensure that all of the various legal descriptions of all of the deceased's different properties around the state are listed on this Judgment of Possession.

(2) Certified Copies of JOP. Once signed, we will request that the clerk of court of Jefferson Parish issue multiple certified copies of this Judgment of Possession (JOP).

(3) Record JOP in Parishes. We will record a certified copy of the JOP in the conveyance records in each parish where the deceased owned real estate. This will show all third parties and title examiners that ownership has been transferred from the deceased to the heirs (or, since there was a Last Will, to the legatees (children)).

In this matter, the deceased also owned real estate in Mississippi. I told the family that the Louisiana Succession would not transfer the Mississippi property. The family must hire another law firm in Mississippi to go through the ancillary probate in Mississippi to transfer the Mississippi property from the deceased to the heirs.

Many people who have property in multiple states transfer those multiple properties to one Living Trust so that no probate proceedings are necessary after the death of the Trust Maker.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Powers When Multiple Executors or Trustees are Named

When people establish wills or trusts, they often want to designate more than one executor or more than one trustee. This video describes what it takes to exercise powers when multiple executors or trustees are named in Louisiana. Note that each state can be different so check with an attorney in your state to guide you through these matters.

Most people are not aware that the Louisiana Succession procedure (regarding executors) and the Louisiana Trust Code (regarding trustees) have different provisions and different applications.

Here are three rules you should be aware of when considering naming more than one executor or co-trustee:

(1) Executors. Louisiana Succession law provides that when there are several executors named, all action by them shall be taken jointly. Provisions in the will can alter this rule.

(2) Two trustees named. If there are two trustees of a trust named, the powers conferred upon them shall be exercised only by both of them. The trust instrument or a court could alter these default provisions.

(3) Three+ Trustees. A power conferred in three or more trustees may be exercised by a majority of the trustees, unless the trust instrument provides otherwise.

So, when three executors are named in a will, action by them shall be taken jointly. But if three trustees are named in a trust, actions by them may be taken by a majority.

I do not know why there is this distinction and difference between our Louisiana Succession law and our Louisiana Trust Code, but you should fully understand these differences when you are working with an attorney to prepare your will or trust, and you are naming more than one person to be in charge when you die. Many parents do not want to show favoritism toward just one child, so they designate all of their children to fill these roles.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450