Paul Rabalais estate attorney

Does a Revocable Living Trust Protect From Nursing Home, Lawsuits, or Income Tax?

People often ask whether creating, funding, and maintaining a revocable living trust gives them protection from the long term care Medicaid spend down that applies when one enters a nursing home with assets, whether the revocable living trusts protects assets in the event the Settlor of the trust is sued, and people also ask what effect a revocable living trust will have on their income taxes.

Regarding whether revocable trust assets give protection from the nursing home spend-down, the answer is clear. The Louisiana Medicaid Eligibility Manual provides that the trust is a resource of yours if you have the right to revoke it and use the funds for your own benefit. 

Regarding protection from lawsuits (creditors), the Louisiana Trust Code provides that a creditor may seize an interest in income or principal that is subject to voluntary alienation by a beneficiary. Since you can voluntarily alienate (and do whatever you want) your revocable trust assets, the assets in the trust could be seized if someone files a lawsuit against you, is successful in the lawsuit, and gets a judgment against you.

Regarding income tax, a revocable living trust is considered a Grantor Trust. Grantor Trusts are those where you have retained certain powers. One of the enumerated Grantor Trust powers is the power to revoke the trust. Thus, a revocable trust is a Grantor Trust for income tax purposes. Grantor Trusts are generally disregarded for income tax purposes during your lifetime. The IRS will treat you as the owner of your revocable trust assets. The Grantor Trust is ignored for income tax purposes, and all income is treated as belonging directly to you (the "Grantor"). During your lifetime, you will report the income from trust assets on your personal income tax return. 

To find out more, subscribe to our Youtube channel (Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC), subscribe to our podcast (Estate Planning with Paul Rabalais), or check out our website (www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com).

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

Medicaid 2018 Asset and Income Limits (with Analysis)

Every year the State of Louisiana's Department of Health adjusts certain Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid asset and income limitations for Long Term Care applicants and recipients. The following is a summary of the changes made for 2018.

The Long Term Care Resource Limit for Single Individuals ($2,000)  and Married Couples ($3,000) has not changed.

The Spousal Resource Standard has increased from the 2017 amount of $120,900, to the 2018 new limit of $123,600. What this means is that if one spouse is in a nursing home (the "institutionalized spouse") and one spouse still lives in the community (the "community spouse"), the the community spouse can retain up to $123,600 of Countable Resources. The rationale is that the spouse who is not in the nursing home needs assets to live off of.

Note that the Louisiana Home Equity Limit has increased from $560,000 in 2017, to $572,000 for 2018. Most people realize that the home is not a countable resource - it is an exempt asset. But what some don't realize is that when a Medicaid recipient dies, the State of Louisiana has Estate Recovery Rights which allows the State of Louisiana to force the sale of the home to reimburse Medicaid for what Medicaid spent on the deceased Medicaid recipient's care.

However, if the home, at the time of Medicaid application, is worth more than $572,000, then the applicant will not qualify for Medicaid due to Louisiana's Home Equity Limit of $572,000. 

Regarding monthly income, the new Spouse's Maintenance Needs is $3,090 of monthly income. Generally, the Community Spouse will be permitted to keep the first $3,090 of the couple's monthly income. Exceptions to this rule apply, however, so work with the right estate planning attorney to protect as much of your assets and income as possible.

Finally, the Average Monthly Cost for Private Patients of Nursing Facility Services remains at $4,000, as it has since November 1, 2007. This means that if you make an uncompensated transfer within five years prior to applying for Medicaid, you will be assessed a penalty period of the value of the transfer divided by $4,000. The fact that the actual cost of nursing home care increases each year makes it very difficult to transfer assets prior to a nursing home stay to protect assets. This $4,000 number really should be increased since the lower the number - the longer the penalty period.

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

How To Find Out What Accounts Deceased Person Owned

Occasionally, after someone dies, the family starts to question what their deceased relative really owned. Sometimes we hear statements from children or other relatives like:

"I thought Dad had more CDs at the bank."

"I thought Dad had another savings account."

"I thought Dad owned stock in some other companies."

"I thought Dad had an annuity and a life insurance policy."

Well, there is no central registry that you can go to and determine everything that someone owned when they died. But there are both informal and formal ways that you can dig and determine what someone owned on the date of their death.

There are a couple of obvious formal ways that you can try and discover additional assets. First, go back and look at the last few years of their tax returns. They would likely have received tax reporting statements from financial institutions that show that accounts were owned. Second, check their mail. If they owned financial accounts, it's likely they may received account statements in the mail.

And then there is the formal way to discover someone's assets after they died. Let's use an example of Dad, who died with a last will and testament. Dad names Son as executor. People are questioning the fact that Dad owned additional accounts. Once Son works with the lawyers and the court system to get confirmed as the executor, the courthouse will issue certified copies of Letters of Independent Executorship. Son can then go to every financial institution where he thinks Dad may have had an account, and the "Letters of Independent Executorship" require the third parties to disclose Dad's account information to Son, who is the independent executor.

So, there is no central registry one can go to and figure out what someone owned when they died, but there are both informal and formal ways to locate whether a deceased person owned additional accounts or other assets. Your estate planning and estate settlement attorney can help you get the proper court authority and make the right kinds of inquiries to expedite this process. And ideally, none of this is necessary if the deceased person would have, during his or her lifetime, maintained a current inventory of assets and communicated that inventory to the appropriate family members or other loved ones.

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

When a Corporate Trustee May Be Appropriate

People create trusts for lots of different reasons. A few reasons include putting assets in a living trust to avoid probate, providing that assets after death remain in trust to be doled out to children or grandchildren over time as opposed to in a lump sum, or leaving assets to a trust for a 2nd spouse and having those assets revert back to your children after the death of your surviving 2nd spouse.

Often, people who create trusts designate an individual to be the trustee, Successor trustee, or co-trustee. These individuals are often family members. But sometimes, people who set up trusts are more comfortable naming a corporate trustee because naming an individual or family member as trustee is simply not appropriate.

Perhaps you do not want to show bias toward one of your children by naming them as a trustee. Or perhaps because of the potential conflict between children and a 2nd spouse, you don't want to name one of them as a trustee. 

Some of the reasons that people have designated a corporate trustee are as follows:

(1) Experience. Corporate trustees often better understand trust provisions and trust law - more so than an individual that has never served as a trustee.

(2) Unbiased. An individual who is also a beneficiary of a trust may find it difficult to be biased in the administration of their duties as trustee. Corporate trustees can act with more bias.

(3) Accounting. Corporate trustees are capable of preparing and providing the necessary trust accounting, and, if necessary, the trust tax return preparation.

Note that corporate trustees typically require that the trust assets must meet or exceed certain values. If the trust assets are minimal, then an individual trustee who is willing to serve with little or no compensation may be your best or only option.

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

How To Leave Inheritance To Minor Child or Young Adult

It never makes sense to leave an inheritance to a minor child in their own name, and it almost never makes sense to leave a lump sum inheritance to a young adult - say in their late teens or early 20's.

There are different vehicles to leave assets to a minor or young adult. Some people leave assets to others through a testamentary trust - a trust that is part of their last will and testament. Others create an "avoid probate" living trust and provide that the trust will continue after the parents pass away. Others set up life insurance trusts so that life insurance won't be dumped into the lap of a minor child or immature young adult.

One of the decisions you will make when you arrange an estate planning legal program for minors or young adults is: Who will be the trustee of the trust? Perhaps you have trusted family members or friends that you can designate as a trustee when you are gone - to oversee the inheritance for your minor children or young adult children. These would be what's referred to as an "individual trustee." Others of you may name a corporate trustee - a large bank or other financial institution that is set up to serve as a corporate trustee.

What often requires a great deal of discussion revolves around when your children can have access to the trust principal that is being held for them. There are unlimited options, but you could designate that your children receive their inheritance when they reach a certain age, say 25. Or, you could say that they get their inheritance in stages, say 1/3 at 25; 1/2 of what's left at 30; the rest at 35. Or, you could say that the trustee has discretion to determine the appropriate time to make principal distributions to your principal beneficiaries.

Note that even if you designate that the children cannot demand principal until a later date (let's say 30, for example), you can provide that distributions can be made earlier for the health, education, maintenance, and support of the principal beneficiary. This allows, for example, educational and health care expenses to be paid from the trust, even though the remaining principal will not be distributed until later.

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.

How To Leave a Bequest To Charity

Not everyone wants to leave part of their estate to charity. But some do. And for those who do, there can be a right way and a wrong way to leave assets to charity. The following are two things to consider when leaving assets from your estate to charity.

(1) Designate the Right Organization. There a many charities out there. Some people want to leave part of their estate for cancer research, heart research, or to an organization that helps pets. But each of these causes has numerous organizations. And some of the larger organizations have local, state, and national organizations. Make sure you research your potential charitable bequest and leave it to the right organization.

(2) Restrict Your Bequest? Some people are not aware that they can restrict their charitable organization for a specific purpose. For example, a university alumni who studied engineering may want to restrict his bequest to the university to support scholarship for students pursuing an engineering degree. You do not have to leave your bequest to the general fund of the church, school, or other charitable organization. Know that you can restrict what your bequest will be used for, so long as it is in furtherance of the organization's charitable purpose.

Most serious discussions regarding leaving part of an estate to charity involves making tax-smart decisions. For example, someone with an IRA along with other assets may choose to name a charity as the beneficiary of the traditional IRA since income tax has not been paid on these funds, and if these funds are left to a charity, then no income will need to be paid on the distribution to charity. So some people leave their charitable bequests from their IRA or other pre-tax retirement account.

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.

Louisiana Forced Heirship Law: Four Key Concepts

Louisiana is the only state that has these unique forced heirship laws. Basically, the law provides that certain children must be left an inheritance. Let's take a look at some of these provisions.

Definition. There are, in general, two definitions of a forced heir. A forced heir is a child who, at the time of your death, is 23 years of age or younger. A forced heir is also defined as a child of any age who, because of mental incapacity or physical infirmity, are permanently incapable of taking care of their persons or administering their estates at the time of your death. Note that I'm generalizing here, and there are exceptions and further clarifications in the law. So, make sure you see an estate planning attorney if these circumstances apply to you.

Amount a Forced Heir is entitled to. Again, exceptions apply here. But generally, if you have one forced heir, that forced heir is entitled to 1/4 of your estate. If you leave behind two or more forced heirs, they must, collectively, share half of your estate. Life insurance, 401(k) accounts, and IRAs are not counted for purposes of this calculation.

Burdening the Legitime. You can arrange your estate, if you have one or more forced heirs, so they do not get their forced portion until both you and your spouse die. You can leave an income interest in trust for your spouse, or you can leave your spouse usufruct of the forced portion. Again, exceptions apply so work with an estate planning attorney.

Disinherison. Even if you leave a forced heir, you can disinherit them (leave them nothing) of they fit under one of the eight just causes for disinherison. The one used most often is when a child, after reaching age 18 and knowing how to contact the parent, has failed to communicate with the parent without just cause for a period of two years, unless the child was on active duty in any of the military forces of the United States at the time.

My final warning about forced heirship is that our rules can be tricky. There is much more to it than what was described here. And since it only applies in Louisiana, none of the national articles or publications will help you.

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.

Info to Gather When Starting "Avoid Probate" Living Trust Based Estate Plan

I'm often asked, "Paul, what information do we need to gather and bring in to get started on our estate planning?" Well, this advice is based on a "typical" (even though there is no such thing as typical because every family's situation is unique and requires customization) person or couple who wants to set up an estate legal program and prevent their family and loved ones from having to go through the court-supervised judicial probate or Succession estate administration process. This typically involves establishing a Living Trust and transferring title to some of your assets into your trust while you are alive in order to make it easy for your Successor Trustee to access and disburse those assets when you die.

In general, there are three groups of information that must be provided: (1) family information; (2) asset information; and (3) substantive legal decisions.

(1) Family Information. This is typically simple. We are going to need the names of all who will participate in your estate planning program either while you are alive or after you die. This typically involves the full names (as you would have them listed in legal documents) of yourself and spouse, children, and sometimes grandchildren or others if they are included. We typically do not need the social security numbers of all of these people. although you may have to provide these numbers to financial institutions on items like IRA and annuity beneficiaries.

(2) Asset Information. When you get started, you should have a good working knowledge of what you own. It is particularly helpful if you gather, up front, all of your real estate legal descriptions. In Louisiana, these real estate legal descriptions can be found on the "Act of Sale" from when you purchased the property, or the "Judgment of Possession" if you inherited the property. We need these up front so that we can prepare the necessary transfer documents that will be signed at the same time that you sign your trust. Documents regarding investments and brokerage accounts don't have to be provided up front (but great if you have them), because you cannot transfer those assets to your trust until after your trust is signed.

(3) Substantive Decisions. All of the "who gets what, how they get it, who will be in charge" decisions are gathered through the dialogue you'll have with your estate planning attorney. These are important decisions and you need an experienced attorney to guide you through this. But it doesn't hurt give some good thought to these things in advance.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Churches and Charities Use Estate Planning To Help More People

Next week I'll be delivering a check for more than $100,000 to a church. I just completed the probate of someone who left a percentage of the estate to the church. I know that the church is going to help many people with this bequest.

It reminds me of how, over the years, a number of churches and charities have asked me to speak to groups of members about how  the tax law is set up to give people a big tax break when they leave a portion of their estate to their church or favorite charities.

Churches and charities don't do enough of this education. I find that, when a church or charity educates its members and asks the right way, that people want to help. People would like to see their dollars help their local community more than sending those dollars off to Washington, D.C.

If you are a church or charity leader, make a commitment to education your base about the benefits of making a church or charity part of an overall estate planning program. If you exist in South Louisiana, give me a call and let's have a talk - in the right circumstances I provide that education to groups for free. But you don't have to use me - just start. You'll be helping your organization and your community.

Paul Rabalais
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: 866-491-3884
Email: paul@RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

A Last Will and Testament Ain't Asset Protection

Was working with a Louisiana couple that came in to discuss getting their estate legal affairs in order. While different people have different priorities when it comes to estate planning (taxes, nursing home expenses, probate, blended families, children who spend, disabled children, in-laws you don't like, protect grandchildren, who will be in charge, health care decisions, to name a few), this couple perceived their biggest threat the potential to lose their savings and home to nursing home expenses. One of the spouses had an illness that didn't pose an immediate threat to independent living, but there is certainly the likelihood down the road that long term care will be needed.

One of the spouses, who was not real educated, mentioned on one or more occasions something like, "While I kinda heard that when it comes to estate planning, all you need is a Will." 

I get that in coffee shops and in barber shops people give advice to their friends and colleagues. But when it comes to the intricacies and varied issues involved these days, one-size-fits-all advice just doesn't work.

Obviously, if you write a Last Will and Testament, you are going to leave all of your assets in your name. If you have assets in your name and you go into a nursing home, you must spend your assets first before Medicaid pays for the care. They let you keep your home but Medicaid will have Estate Recovery rights so that when you die, your home must be sold to reimburse Medicaid for what they spent on your care - after you spent all of your own money.

Because there is uncertainty in life, I don't know how this family's story will end. They've worked hard to accumulate what they have. It sounds like their children and grandchildren could really benefit from an inheritance. But only time will tell what will happen in the future.

Paul Rabalais
Estate Planning Attorney
paul@RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: 866-491-3884

What To Do When Person Who Set Up Trust Dies

Here's what needs to be done after someone who had set up a Louisiana Avoid Probate Living Trust passes away.

Obviously, there are a number of non-legal tasks that must be addressed, from making funeral arrangements to notifying family and friends. But once we start talking to a family about legal matters, the initial things we often review are the trust instrument and the assets.

Regarding the trust instrument, we will always initially review who was designated as the Successor Trustee or Co-Trustees. We'll also take a close look at what action is required after the death of a Settlor. The actions required may be very different depending upon whether the Settlor was married or single at the time of his or her death.

If the Settlor was married, the trust might require that assets be divided into two trusts after the first death. This was pretty much "standard practice" back when the estate tax exemption was lower and we wanted to make sure that the assets of the first spouse were not lumped into the estate of the surviving spouse for federal estate tax purposes. Now, with couples being able to exempt more than $20 million, it's not as critical that there be a division of assets upon the death of the first spouse.

If the Settlor, at the time of his or her death, was married, then the trust is likely to require distributions to the principal beneficiaries of the trust, although some trusts may require that assets remain in trust for some period of time.

Another thing we look at is the assets of the Settlor and in the trust. The trust may own real estate, investments, or other assets. The trust might be named as the beneficiary of the Settlor's IRAs, life insurance, or annuities.

And the Settlor may have owned assets in his or her own name when the Settlor died. Assets may have either intentionally or inadvertently been left out of the trust. If there are probate assets left out of the trust, then we want to determine the existence and contents of, perhaps, a pour-over Will. If there are probate assets in the Settlor's individual name (not in the trust), a Succession may be required to pour-over those assets into the trust for distribution.

Finally, as part of this first step, we want to review the trust instrument to determine the rights and obligations of the Trustee and the beneficiaries. Some trusts have customized duties and powers that must be followed.

Bottom line - don't assume that you know what the trust instrument provides and requires. Work with an estate planning attorney who can spot and solve issues that you do not know exist.

Paul Rabalais
email: paul@RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Offices: All over South Louisiana
website: www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Nine Elements of a Louisiana "Avoid Probate" Estate Legal Program

Many seniors in Louisiana express a desire that their family and loved ones avoid the court-supervised probate process when they die. Because every family is unique and each person or couple owns different types of assets, it's important that they have a foundation for their Program. The following is a description of nine different elements of the Louisiana "Avoid Probate" Estate Legal Program.

(1) Revocable Living Trust. Their Revocable Living Trust ("RLT") is the foundation of their program. This is the customized legal instrument where you state who is in charge of your trust when become incapable or when you die, who will inherit or receive distributions from your trust after you die, and it will also state the rights and obligations of all of the parties that are involved. Your RLT really replaces the traditional "Last Will and Testament." The disposition of your trust assets are controlled by your trust instrument, not your Last Will and Testament.

(2) Pour-Over Last Will and Testament. If you happen to own any assets in your name when you die, and the title of which becomes frozen when you die because they are in your name, your Pour-Over Will is necessary. The executor of the WIll, after your death, will hire an attorney and go through the court-supervised Succession procedure to have those assets in your name transferred to your trust. Note that many people who set up an "Avoid Probate" Legal Program never need to utilize the Last Will because all assets will be titled in a way making the Succession unnecessary. "Funding" your trust (or re-titling your assets) is a critical step in the process so that nothing is left in your name when you die that would require a judicial proceeding.

(3) Durable Power of Attorney. This can also be referred to as Financial Power of Attorney, General Power of Attorney, or POA. An example of when this may be needed is when you are incapacitated and there is an IRA in your name and you are unable to transact the IRA due to your incapacity. Your POA should enable your "Agent" to act on your behalf at the financial institution where the IRA is held.

(4) Health Care Power of Attorney. Also called a Medicaid Power of Attorney or Health Care Proxy. This will enable your trusted family member or friend ("Agent") to talk to doctors and access your medical records in the event you are unable to do this yourself.

(5) Living Will Declarations. This is the legal instrument where you make your wishes known regardling life support machines. People who execute Living Wills typically want to relieve their family from the burden of making an end of life decision by putting their wishes on paper, in advance.

(6) Asset Transfers. All of your funding and re-titling documents should be organized in the Asset Transfers portion of your Estate Legal Program. This is where transfers of real estate, investments, and business interests are documented.

(7) Burial and Funeral Wishes. Part of completing your Estate Legal Program may involve informal documentation of your wishes regarding certain aspects of your passing, such as your burial and funeral wishes. 

(8) Distribution of Personal Effects. Some people provide for the distribution of their non-titled personal effects (jewelry, furniture, guns, etc.) in their formal legal documents. Others take a simpler approach and make an informal list of how they want their personal effects disbursed. Check with your attorney regarding the best way to provide for the distribution of your personal effects.

(9) Trustee Education. Since the establishing of an estate legal program may be new to you, your attorney should provide both you and your Successor Trustee(s) with education and instructions as to how to best serve as a Trustee of Co-Trustee. 

While every client is different, with different needs, this should give you a pretty good example of what the typical estate planning program consists of. Now go take care of business!

Paul Rabalais
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning
Law Offices: All over South Louisiana
Phone: 866-491-3884

Louisiana Man Protects House Proceeds FOR Grandchildren and FROM Nursing Home Costs

Hoping you can benefit from my vlog by hearing stories about what others have done and then realizing you can do the same to protect what you have for yourself and your loved ones.

I'm working with a gentleman who just sold his house and will likely be renting for the rest of his life. He's handicapped and he has no family nearby that can help take care of him - he's convinced that if his condition worsens one day in the future, he'll need to reside in a nursing home.

He has three grandchildren that he adores. He wants to make sure that his money stays protected for his grandchildren to benefit from one day. When I inquired whether he was concerned about losing the money to the nursing home, he said that was his #1 concern.

So we are in the process of setting up a trust for him - a very particular kind of trust - so that if he does go to the nursing home, that his money is protected. Note that the typical "avoid probate revocable living trust" does NOT protect the money from nursing home expenses.

I told him he was being smart by planning ahead. Because of some of our federal and state regulations, it's paramount that you take advantage of legal strategies well before you get sick.

For more updates, Subscribe to the youtube channel of Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC. Also, you'll be doing me a big favor if you share this info with your contacts and friends.

Paul Rabalais
866-491-3884
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Offices all over south Louisiana

Is Estate Tax Owed on Living Trust Assets?

Assets that are either in your name or in your Living Trust are going to be included in your estate when you die for federal estate tax purposes. The federal government assesses about a 40% tax on the value of your assets when you die, but only if they exceed a certain amount.

Starting in 2018, as a result of our new tax law, an individual will be able to exempt $11.2 million of assets from the 40% estate tax. To take it a little further, married couples can exempt up to $22.4 million from the federal estate tax.

In fact, for most families, it is more advantageous for assets to be included in your estate for tax purposes than excluded. Assets that are in your estate, for tax purposes, get a step-up in capital gains tax basis when you die. This permits your heirs to sell assets after you die and pay no tax on the appreciation from the time of your initial purchase until the time of your death. This can save a load of tax.

In fact, since Louisiana is a community property state, we get to benefit from the special rule that says that all of the married couple's community property gets a step-up in basis at the first death, not just the deceased spouse's half. And if you set up your estate planning program the right way, the entire estate will get another step-up in basis when the surviving spouse dies. We call this the "Doube Step-Up." But it doesn't happen automatically, you have to actively work with the right estate planning attorney who can guide you through this.

It's worth mentioning at this point that the federal gift and estate tax are unified. Here's what that means. If, in 2018, you donate more than $15,000 to anyone, no one owes tax. By giving more than the annual exclusion amount ($15,000 for 2018), you simply start using up some of your $11.2 million estate tax exemption. That's right - no one owes taxes if a gift is in excess of $15,000 (unless, of course, you give away more than $11.2 million, but that would be one heckuva gift!

And note that based on the new tax law, the estate tax exemption is scheduled to revert back to $5 million (indexed for inflation), in 2026, unless, of course, Congress and the President change it again.

If You Have Usufruct, You Have Debt

This post should help you understand the full consequences of either leaving someone the Louisiana usufruct of an estate, or inheriting the usufruct of an estate.

Here's an example. Dad dies leaving a Last Will which left the usufruct of his estate to Mom. Together, Mom and Dad had about $1 million in the bank (checking, savings, and a number of CDs). About a year later, after Dad's Succession was complete, all of these bank accounts were put in Mom's name only - which the usufructuary is permitted to do. Family circumstances warranted that Mom change her Will. Mom died a couple of years after that.

All of Mom's heirs assumed that since all of the money was in Mom's name, and that Mom left a Last Will and Testament, that all of the money would go to them. But there were dead wrong - pun intended.

Since Dad left Mom the usufruct of his estate, Mom (or Mom's estate) owed a debt to Dad's heirs (also called a usufructuary accounting due to the naked owners). Dad had left Mom the usufruct of about $500,000. That "usufructuary debt to Dad's naked owners" needed to be satisfied first before any of Mom's heirs inherit a penny.

And if Mom had spent some of the money and only had enough at her death to satisfy the usufructuary debt, then Mom's heirs would not inherit - even though she had a very clear Will leaving her money to her heirs.

While usufruct can be appropriate in some circumstances, you and your spouse need to be aware - on the front end - about what might happen on the back end. While usufruct might be the way to go, there are a number of other alternative ways you can leave your estate to your loved ones. To start a discussion, call our office at 866-491-3884.

Go TIgers!