Community Property

The Succession Detailed Descriptive List

In every Succession in Louisiana when someone dies with assets in their name, the lawyers must prepare a number of court pleadings. One of the documents is commonly referred to as the "Detailed Descriptive List" or the "Sworn Descriptive List of Assets and Liabilities." I'll refer to it as the DDL.

The DDL is a snapshot of all of the assets and debts that a person owned when he or she died. If the deceased owned separate property, those separate assets would be listed. If they owned community property, then all of the community assets would be listed on the DDL. You would see the deceased's one-half value of the community property listed.

So, what assets get listed in the DDL? Well, it's all of the Louisiana real estate, the bank accounts, the investments, the business interests, and the boats, trailers and vehicles. No formal appraisal of real estate is required but a value must be placed on each asset listed on the Detailed Descriptive List. Note that if the estate is larger than $11.2 million, and a federal estate tax return is required, then the real estate will need to be appraised for purposes of federal estate tax return reporting. 

It's also important to note here that the capital gains tax basis of any appreciated assets gets stepped up to the fair market value on the date of death. Some people, years after the death of a loved one, go back and refer to the values listed on the detailed descriptive list to determine the basis of assets.

In addition, all of the debts of the deceased, and administrative expenses, get itemized on the DDL.

It's important to get the DDL right because all of the data from the DDL get transferred to the Judgment of Possession, which is the important court order that a judge signs ordering the transfer of assets to the heirs. One difference between the DDL and the JOP is that the JOP does not typically list the values of the assets to be transferred - it just lists the assets.

In 2017, the Louisiana Legislature provided that the Detailed Descriptive List, which in the past was public record, can now be sealed in the Succession record. This sealing of the DDL may prevent predators from searching probate records and preying on surviving spouses who have some wealth.

To get more information about completing a Succession in Louisiana, you can subscribe to our youtube channel, or view our website at 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

Children Donate Naked Ownership Interest Back To Surviving Parent

I've been working with a family recently. Dad passed away without a last will and testament ("intestate"). I explained to the family that since Dad died intestate, Dad's half of the community property would be inherited by Dad's children, subject to Mom's usufruct.

The children wanted to support Mom both emotionally and financially. The children wanted Mom to own everything so they asked me if they could donate their naked ownership interest back to Mom.  I told them that we would have to complete the Succession first in accordance with Louisiana law, and that Dad's half would have to go to the children, but then once the children were put "in possession" of the property, they could donate it back to Mom. Everyone felt good that Mom would own 100% of the property and the other Succession assets.

There were no gift or estate tax issues involved in the transaction since the estate tax exemption in 2018 is so high ($11.2 million). In fact, the children may benefit in the long run because when Mom dies many years from now, the children will benefit from the step-up in basis of Mom's entire estate as it passes to the children.

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.

Tax Consequences When Living Trust Settlor Dies

Because our government likes to tax people, there are a number of different taxes that come into play when the Settlor of a Revocable Living Trust dies. In general, the "tax at death" landscape has changed from avoiding estate tax, to avoiding capital gains tax and income tax. The following are the types of tax that might affect you if you are a Settlor, heir, beneficiary, legatee, trustee, executor, Agent, or Grantor, Trustor, or other participant in someone's transfer of wealth.

(1) Federal Estate Tax. For most people, you ain't gotta worry about it. If you have less than $11.2 million in assets when you die, you don't even have to file a federal estate tax return. Married? Exempt $22.4 million from the 40% estate tax. Yes, like everyone says, you can call me when you win the Powerball.

(2) Louisiana Inheritance Tax. It went long gone back in 2004. Doesn't exist any more.

(3) Capital Gains Tax. Definitely in play. When someone dies, assets that they own in their name, or assets in their revocable living trust, get a step-up in basis at death. This can permit the Successor Trustee or the beneficiaries to sell appreciated assets and pay little or no tax. Example: Dad bought a share of stock for $10. Before his death, the share is worth $50. If Dad sells it before he dies, he pays capital gains tax on the $40 of capital gain. But if Dad does not sell the share, and he dies, then the heirs or beneficiaries inherit the stock at the "stepped-up" $50 (fair market value on the date Dad died). Note that in community property states like Louisiana, ALL of the community property gets a step up when the first spouse dies. It makes a lot of sense, when a married person dies, to document the value of the assets so that tax can be calculated later when the asset is sold. Remember: no capital gains tax unless an asset is SOLD.

(4) Income Tax. There are all kinds of income tax ramifications to inheriting. Depends on what you inherit and many other factors. However, in general, a distribution of trust principal to a principal beneficiary after a Settlor dies is free of income tax to the recipient. However, income tax consequences exist if you are the beneficiary of a Traditional IRA, 401(k), or other pre-tax retirement account. You may also be required to pay income tax on the "gain" portion of a tax-deferred annuity when you receive it. There are also income tax consequences to inheriting appreciated savings bonds. Note that if you are the beneficiary of a Traditional IRA, and you are not the account owner's spouse, you will likely inherit it as an Inherited IRA and you cannot wait until 70.5 to start taking required distributions.

Many of the decisions you make when establishing your estate planning program, and many of the decisions your Trustee, heirs, or beneficiaries make after you death, can have a significant impact on how much tax the government takes from your estate.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: 866-491-3884

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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.

How To Structure Bank Accounts To Avoid Probate

One thing that frustrates families when they attempt to settle an estate is when they find out that any and all bank accounts that the deceased had are frozen by the financial institution, regardless of the amount of the accounts. Meanwhile, funerals and other expenses need to be paid.

People try every trick in book to outsmart the banks and the courts from freezing the accounts. The following are the top three ways people in Louisiana keep their bank accounts from being frozen at death.

(1) Add a Signer. Many "Do-It-Yourselfers" go to the bank and, perhaps, add an adult child or two as an authorized signer on their bank accounts. This often works, however, there is at least one major bank in Louisiana who will freeze the account at death even if there are other authorized signers on the account during the life of the account owner. So, check not only with your estate attorney but check with your bank.

(2) Payable on Death. Some Louisiana banks permit bank account owners to complete paperwork so that they make their accounts "Payable on "Death" (or, POD) to another person or people. This doesn't give anyone access to your account while you are alive, and the Designees must produce your death certificate to access the funds, but at least they will be able to receive the funds without having to go through a Louisiana Succession. Warning: Louisiana law does not entitle the designees to own the funds, POD simply releases the banks from liability for releasing the funds to the designees. If your estate planning legal documents differ from your POD designation, conflict may occur. And not all banks offer a POD designation.

(3) Trust Accounts. If you have a Living Trust, you can make your bank accounts trust accounts. When you die or become incapable, your Successor Trustee will have access to the accounts. Accounts won't be frozen. In the typical scenario, when you die, your Successor Trustee produces the trust instrument to the bank for approval, and then the Successor Trustee gains access to all trust bank accounts, and then disburses the accounts immediately to the trust beneficiaries without probate cost and delay.

Handling your bank accounts with an eye on estate planning can be tricky. It's a process that we go through with each client. But it's worth it when you arrange things so that your family has ease and simplicity instead of delay and frustration.

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

Louisiana Family Supportive After Parent Dies Intestate Requiring Probate

I was contacted by a family recently that had a number of estate planning and administration issues that needed to be addressed.

Mom had died unexpectedly a few years ago. Mom died intestate - which means she had no Will or other estate planning legal documents in place when she died. Mom and Dad had accumulated a fairly significant estate by the time she passed away - including homes, mutual funds, stock, bank accounts, vehicles, and other assets.

Dad is planning on getting married again. Normally, this causes problems between the children of the first marriage and the new step-mom - but not here.

The children were super-supportive of their father. They said, "Look Dad, you raised us, bought us cars, paid for our college education, and you've been a great father. You and Mom don't owe us anything. We want you to have it."

Now that's support from children back to their father! The children realized that they could kick Dad out of his house on the day that he marries Step-Mom - but the kids are better than that.

But we still have legal work to take care of. We will complete Mom's Succession. And then after that, the kids will sign legal documents donating their share of their inheritance from Mom back to Dad. Dad will wind up being the 100% owner of everything. 

Dad is now establishing a new legal plan to support his new wife and his children the right way, and making things easy for them to inherit in the future.

If you live in Louisiana, and are in a situation like this, and would like to find out how easy it is to get all of this straight (and how much of a mess it will be if you don't address it), give my office a call at 866-491-3884, and we'll have a discussion about the easiest way to get all of it straight.

Seven New Louisiana Estate Matters That Walked Into Rabalais Estate Planning During The Last Two Days

I have been fortunate to have seven different families, from Metairie, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Gonzales, and Zachary. ask me to help them with various estate matters over the last two days. Each family has a different situation and a different concern, so I thought I'd give you a general overview of their problems and how we are solving them so that if you have a similar problem you will know that you are not alone and there is someone that can help who has helped others in similar situations.

Here are the seven different situations that families have retained me in the last two days to help them:

  1. Mom's Investment Account Frozen. A gentleman came and met with me two days ago. His mother had passed away and, as a result, her investment account was frozen. Mom and the son had the same investment advisor. The investment advisor suggested that the son come see me so that we could complete the probate (also known in Louisiana as "Succession") to obtain the necessary court orders which will allow the family to have access to Mom's currently frozen investment account.
  2. Want To Protect Each Other and Teenage Child. A couple came in that had been referred by another financial advisor. The couple had a teenage child and wanted to make sure that their "legal affairs were in order" because they had done no estate legal planning in the past. We will be setting up an estate legal program for this couple to make legal matters easy or nonexistent when one spouse dies, and then making sure that guardians and trustees are named for their minor child should something happen to the parents before the child is an adult.
  3. Couple With No Children. Working with a couple that has been married for decades with no children. They have some pets that are important to them. We will be setting up an estate legal program so that when one of them dies, matters will be under the continued control of the surviving spouse, and that after they both pass away, funds will be set aside for the care of their pets, with the remainder of their estate being divided among four charitable causes that they care deeply about. Nice and fun couple - organized too!
  4. Blended Family. Working with a couple each of whom was in their second marriage. They each had one child. The children lived geographically far apart and had not spent much time together. The couple wanted to make sure that protections were in place for each other so that when one dies, there is no interruption from the children, and then when both spouses die, things are in place for the two children to inherit outside of probate and other court legal proceedings being necessary. Another really nice couple.
  5. Protect Mom's Money From Nursing Homes. Working with a family where Mom is currently residing in an assisted living facility. The family realized that all assisted living facilities in Louisiana are private-pay, but they are worried that if Mom's conditions worsens, Mom will have to move to a skilled nursing facility and be forced to spend $6,000 monthly or more on her care.  We are setting up a legal plan for the family so that Mom's money will be protected if she has to reside in a nursing home in the future. Plus, probate will be avoided when Mom dies.
  6. Execute Will. I wrote a Will for a woman many years ago. She passed away recently. I met with the family and they retained us to execute Mom's Will and complete Mom's Succession so that the home and Mom's CDs, and the vehicle, could be transferred 100% into Dad's name. We are also updating all of Dad's estate planning legal documents because he wanted to change how things would be disbursed upon his death.
  7. Plan For Two Children. Now working with a gentleman who contact me after "watching some of my videos and reading some of my blog posts online." He has a rather large estate, much of it in real estate, and he wants to make sure that it goes to his two children the right way and he wants it to be easy for his two children to inherit the property. We also had some discussions about capital gains tax and estate tax to make sure that his children would avoid as much tax as possible as this property gets transitioned to the next generation.

While many people think that estate planning is the same for everyone, you can see from reading these seven examples that every family and every individual has a unique situation that requires unique solutions. If you have an estate that you want to protect for your family, feel free to give my office a call at 866-491-3884 to start a conversation about the easiest ways to protect what you have for your loved ones.

Paul Rabalais

 

5 Questions That Were Answered At My Estate Planning Presentation Today

I gave an estate planning presentation today at my favorite breakfast place nearby in Prairieville, Louisiana. Their hashed browns and biscuits are to die for - no pun intended since I was discussing estate planning.

There was one woman there who said that for the last 30 years, she had been clipping different articles about estate planning and keeping them in a sack. She presented several questions to me before we even started the breakfast event this morning. Fortunately, I wrote her questions down as she asked me. The questions she asked me were the following:

  1. Does forced heirship still exist in Louisiana? Hint: She mentioned all of her children were over the age of 50.
  2. Is Louisiana a community property state?
  3. Is it better to have joint investment accounts or to name a beneficiary on the accounts?
  4. When you put your assets in a trust, do you give up control over the assets?
  5. What's the difference between a Living Will and a Living Trust?

My 45 minute estate planning presentation addressed most of these questions that she had. The ones that my presentation did not address, I addressed specifically after we finished the presentation.

One other note she mentioned. She said she was really worried that she did not have a deed to her home property in Ascension Parish. She said that her mother had given her and her husband the land many years ago, and then she and her husband built their home on the land. I told her that she can rest easy because there is no such thing as a deed in Louisiana. As long as the Donation from her mother to her and her husband was recorded in the Ascension Parish property records, then she and her husband were the owners of the land and the home that was subsequently built on the land. Her husband indicated that the property tax notice comes in their name every year, so obviously, the property had been put in their names correctly.

I look forward to seeing this couple in our office in a couple of weeks as we set up an estate legal program that will protect them, their children, and their grandchildren. She said that their main goal as they establish an estate legal program was to provide something for each of their seven grandchildren. I look forward to working with them.

Importance of Documenting the Accounts in a Louisiana Succession After the First Spouse Dies

We started working on a Succession today out of our Baton Rouge office. The wife had passed away. Her husband was talking to me about helping the family get the Succession complete. The couple had been married for about 20 years, but they each had children from their prior marriages. The deceased wife had two children. The surviving husband had three children. The husband said that, for now, the relationships were good between himself and the two sets of children. He was hoping that the fact that his wife's estate needed to be settled would not harm the relationships among all of the parties involved.

Usufruct To Spouse - Naked Ownership To Children

We discussed how her wife left a Will leaving him the lifetime usufruct of her estate, and she named her two children as the naked owners. He stated that he wanted his three children to inherit his estate when he dies.

He brought in a list of all of the various bank accounts and investment accounts. They had about five bank accounts, an investment account at Fidelity Investments, and they owned a home worth about $500,000. We discussed how important it is now to fully document all of the bank accounts, investment accounts, debts, credit card balances, funeral expenses, and medical bills outstanding, because when the husband later dies, the children of the two spouses will look back to how the assets were listed when the first spouse dies to determine who inherits what after the surviving spouse dies.

I gave the husband an example. I said, "Let's assume that the two of you owned bank accounts totaling $200,000 when your wife died. Let's also assume that the two of you had credit card and home equity debt of $40,000. Further, let's assume that there were $15,000 of funeral expenses. What all of this means is that when you die, your estate will owe your wife's children $65,000."

Usufructuary Accounting

He asked me how I came to that calculation. So I said, "Well the $200,000 of bank accounts are community property so you each own half of those accounts. As the usufructuary. you own your half of the accounts, and your estate will owe your wife's children her half of the accounts when you die. So, let's start with the fact that you will owe her children $100,000. Now, since there was $40,000 of community debt, your wife's share of that is $20,000, and you can deduct $20,000 from what you owe her children. And since there were $15,000 of funeral expenses, you can also deduct that amount from what you owe. So, $100,000 minus $20,000 minus $15,000 totals $65,000. That's the amount your estate will owe your wife's children when you die."

Then, we started talking about their home. The surviving husband said he intended to sell the home in a few months and move into something smaller. So I gave him another example regarding their home. I said, "Let's say you sell the home in six months for $520,000. At that moment, you converted a nonconsumable (the home) into a consumable (cash). If you sell the house for $520,000, you will get to keep all of the money, but upon your death, your estate will owe your wife's children $260,000 (one-half of the sales proceeds). 

The mistake many families make is that even though money typically does not go to the children upon the death of the first spouse, it is critical to properly document the assets as part of the Succession process. If things are accurately documented in the Succession (also known as "Probate") when the first spouse dies, it will make it much easier to accurately divide the assets after the surviving spouse dies. Shoddy records after the first spouse's death will likely lead to estate settlement disputes after the surviving spouse dies because the families will often have to "guess" at what assets and accounts existed years earlier when the first spouse died and there are no longer records from years earlier.

Louisiana Statewide Succession and Estate Planning Legal Services

If you want to set up an estate legal program and you live in Louisiana, whether you live in Baton Rouge, Covington, Metairie, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Shreveport, Monroe, or Alexandria, or if you've lost a family member and you want to make sure that the estate settlement is handled the right way to avoid disputes, now or later, among family members, give our Louisiana toll-free number a call at 866-491-3884, and we will be happy to have a conversation about how easy it is to do it the right way, the first time.

Handling a Louisiana Succession When Surviving Wife is Bequeathed Usufruct

I was working with a family over the last few years. The surviving wife called me after he husband died about two years ago. She wanted to get his "estate settled." She said he had a Last Will and Testament leaving her everything.

Ownership or Usufruct?

When she came in and showed me the Will, I realized that he had not left her "ownership" of everything, rather, he left her "usufruct", a form of ownership recognized only in Louisiana.
The husband left two daughters, and I told the surviving wife that we would have to get her two step-daughters involved in the Succession since they were the "naked owners" and needed to be part of the settling of her husband's estate.

Well, two years later after the daughters and their husbands prolonged court proceedings because they demanded accountings of all of bank accounts, CDs, investment accounts, IRAs, annuities, and Savings Bonds, the relationships are now strained and the surviving wife is now saying, "How can I make sure that MY CHILDREN don't have to go through all of this when I die?"

Easier Access When Wife Passes Away

So, we're setting things up now so that when she dies, her children will immediately inherit from her, and her husband's children will immediately get what they are entitled to from their father's Louisiana Succession. Certain things will be held in trust so there will be easy and immediate access to heirs when she dies, without having to go through the complexities, delays, and costs of probate.

If you live in Louisiana, whether in Baton Rouge or New Orleans or Monroe or Lake Charles or Shreveport, and you want to make your estate settlement easy, give us a call at 866-491-3884, and we'll start a discussion about how easy it is to get all of this straight.

Married Couple Doesn't Want Surviving Spouse To Have To Get Children's Permission To Sell The Home

I met with a couple yesterday from Assumption Parish. They had children that were young adults but the children were still forced heirs. Their number one goal was to make legal and financial and estate matters simple for the surviving spouse after the first spouse dies. They do not want to have to get permission from the children if the surviving spouse wants to sell the house, a vehicle, or stock that they own.

They realized that if they put no legal plan in place, then when one spouse died, the surviving spouse would be at the mercy of the children if the surviving spouse wanted to sell the home or other assets they had.

We put a plan in place so that when one spouse dies, the surviving spouse can continue to control everything - the children do not need to be involved at that point - and the surviving spouse will remain in control of everything. Yet, the children's forced heirship rights will be protected in compliance with the Louisiana forced heirship laws.

One of the big reasons married couples put an estate legal plan in place is to make things simple for their surviving spouse. If you want to do the same for your spouse, simple email me at paul@rabalaisestateplanning.com, and tell me a little about your circumstances and what your estate goals are. Then, if appropriate, we'll all get together to chat about what an estate legal program might look like.

6 Critical Estate Planning Concepts: How To Make Your Child's Inheritance Divorce-Proof

I was working with a couple from St. Tammany Parish. They had only one child. It appeared to this couple that their child would likely get married in the next few months or years. The couple was not particularly fond of their potential daughter-in-law, but like they told me, "We don't get to select who our son marries!"

The couple had worked very hard to save up their estate. They wanted to pass it along to their son - AND THEIR SON ONLY. They feared leaving their estate to their son one day in the future, and then the daughter-in-law divorces the son and takes half of the inheritance along with her. They owned a home and another piece of property. They owned publicly traded stock, and they owned a considerable amount of cash, in the form of checking accounts, savings accounts, money market accounts, and certificates of deposit.

Here are a few things you should know if you want to keep your children's inheritance in the family and avoid losing it to your children's past, present, and future divorces.

  1. Inheritance is Separate Property. At the moment that a child (or anyone) inherits, that inheritance is the separate property of the person inheriting. So, if parents leave Son $1 million, then that $1 million initially is the separate property of Son's - not community property of Son and Daughter-in-Law.
  2. Income From Separate Property. Income produced by the separate property of a spouse is community property. So, if that $1 million that Son inherited produces $200,000 of income (interest and dividends) over a several year period, then that income that Son's separate property produced is community property owned by both Son and Daughter-in-Law.
  3. Commingling of Community and Separate Property. If community property and separate property get mixed up together so that you can't distinguish the separate property from the community property, then it all becomes community due to our presumption that anything a married couple has is community property.
  4. Declaration of Paraphernality. Son may sign a particular type of Declaration reserving that the fruits and revenues (income) of his separate property IS his separate property. Assuming he executes this document timely and accurately, then the $200,000 of income that his inheritance produced (See #2, above) would be his separate property. There would be no commingling of inheritance and income from inheritance, so the separate property status of all of it would be preserved.
  5. Leaving an Inheritance To Your Ex-Inlaw. Let's say your son is divorced from the mother of your son's three minor children. Your son predeceases you. It is likely that the inheritance that your son would have received would go to your son's children (your grandchildren). But guess who controls it? Yep, you've just put all of your hard earned wealth into the hands of your deceased son's ex-wife, because the courts will put her in charge of your minor grandchildren's inheritance, causing you to "roll over in your grave." Proper estate planning, done right the first time, with the right estate planning attorney, can avoid these problems.
  6. Leave It To "The Son Trust." For parents who want their children to have an extra layer of protection, they will set up their estate planning legal program in a manner that when the parents die, the child's inheritance will be placed into a trust for the child. Done correctly, this may prevent the child from being "influenced" by the child's spouse to do something inappropriate with the inheritance, and it may even provide that when the child later dies, any remaining inheritance in the child's trust will pass along to the child's children - and not the child's spouse or ex-spouse.