Keep Property in Family

The Amendable But Irrevocable Trust

Is it possible to amend, modify, or change the provisions of an irrevocable trust?

All trusts can be classified as either revocable or irrevocable. The #1 reason people create revocable trusts is to hold title to assets in a way that you keep total control but eliminate the attorney and court-involved probate process when you pass away. Quite a bit is written about using revocable living trusts to avoid probate, so that is not the topic of this post.

Irrevocable trusts, however, are created for many different reasons: avoid taxes, lawsuit protection, and nursing home protection, just to name a few.

The word "irrevocable" scares many consumers, but it may not need to. Someone can establish an "irrevocable" trust, yet reserve the right to modify certain terms of the trust after the trust is created.

Here's an example: Parent sets up a trust. Parent is referred to as the "Settlor." In the trust instrument, it states that "X" is the trustee of the trust. It further states that "Y" and "Z" are the principal beneficiaries of the trust. The trust states that the trustee may distribute principal to the principal beneficiaries during the lifetime of the Settlor. The trust instrument further provides that when the Settlor dies, the trustee shall terminate the trust and distribute the principal to the principal beneficiaries.

Then, the trust instrument further provides that the Settlor can replace the trustee, and the trust instrument also provides that the trustee can replace the principal beneficiaries. Now you have an irrevocable trust where the Settlor has expressly reserved the right to modify certain provisions of the trust, yet there are some provisions of the trust that the Settlor cannot, under any circumstances, modify.

Fueling this concern over the inflexibility of irrevocable trusts is the fact that back in the 1990's, most irrevocable trusts were set up to avoid the 55% estate tax on assets that exceeded $600,000 in value at death. Settlors of those irrevocable trusts almost never reserved the right to modify those trust provisions for fear that the "right to modify" would cause the trust assets to revert back to the estate of the Settlor.

But since we now have an $11.4 million estate tax exemption, and portability between spouses, married couples can exempt $22.8 million in assets from the estate tax. Moving assets out of the estate to avoid estate tax just isn't a concern any more.

Now, irrevocable trusts are established for a variety of reasons: yes, tax avoidance is one. But so is lawsuit protection, nursing home protection, and many other reasons. But you need to be very careful when you are attempting to take advantage of trusts and other legal strategies to gain these protections because the slightest alterations of wording can have adverse tax, creditor protection, and Medicaid eligibility consequences.

So, in summary, an irrevocable trust does not need to be as scary as it first sounds, due to the fact that you can reserve the right to modify certain provisions, but you will want to tread carefully.

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

Under What Circumstances Should You Give a Trustee the Discretion to Make Distributions to a Trust Beneficiary?

How much discretion should you give a trustee when you establish a trust for the benefit of one or more beneficiaries?

Trusts are set up for many different reasons. Sometimes people want to leave assets at their death to others, but they don't want the inheritors to receive the inheritance in one lump sum. Some people who leave an inheritance want to dictate what the inheritance is to be used for, and under what conditions they can receive it.

For example, let's say a grandparent wants to leave $150,000 to his grandchild. At the time that the grandparent is establishing his estate legal program through a Last Will or Living Trust, the grandchild is only six years old. So the grandparents is advised to leave the bequest in a trust for the benefit of the grandchild.

One decision the grandparent must make is who should be the trustee of this trust after the grandparent dies. Let's say the grandparent selects grandparent's child as the trustee.

And now the decision comes regarding when distributions can be made to or for the grandchild, from the trust, by the trustee.

When you establish a trust like this, you will make a decision regarding whether you want the trustee to have discretion or no discretion in making trust decisions.

If you choose to allow the trustee to exercise discretion in making distributions, you might include trust language that permits the trustee to make distributions to or for a beneficiary for the "health, education, maintenance, and support," of the beneficiary. This can work well when you have a trustee that you know will exercise that discretion in the best interests of the beneficiary. When you choose this option, you may believe that you don't know what future circumstances may bring, and you trust that the trustee will exercise their discretion in a manner consistent with your overall objectives. Perhaps you even communicate to your trustee during your lifetime how you would want the trustee to exercise their discretion.

On the other hand, you may wish to remove all discretion from the trustee, by providing something like, "I direct the trustee to distribute $1,500 monthly to the beneficiary until trust principal is gone."

Or, you might even get more restrictive by stating that the beneficiary must meet certain standards (GPA, no criminal activity, no drug use, etc.) before distributions can be made. However, the more restrictions you place in the trust, the more difficult it will be for a trustee to adapt to circumstances that may not have been able to have been contemplated at the time of the creation of the trust.

So, granting lots of trustee discretion allows a trustee to use their discretion in a manner that is consistent with your overall objectives, but it may create a situation where a beneficiary is badgering the trustee to exercise their discretion, so you'd need to designate a trustee that has the ability to say, "NO" to a beneficiary when appropriate.

Or, you may choose to eliminate trustee discretion by imposing specific restrictions in the trust that must be met for distributions to be made.

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

Five Reasons Louisiana Residents Take Advantage of the Legal Services of an Estate Planning Attorney

The following are five reasons that Louisiana residents (and anyone for that matter) take advantage of the services of an estate planning lawyer:

1. Protect your Children's Inheritance from Their Divorces. Yes, the moment your children inherit from you, the inheritance is separate property. But if they commingle the inheritance (accidentally or intentionally), the inheritance becomes community property. Then, when your child later divorces, your child loses half the inheritance. You can proactively take legal steps to ensure that your child's inheritance will always be your child's inheritance.

2. Avoid Probate. When you leave assets to your survivors through your Last Will and Testament, your survivors will be required to hire attorneys and go through what many perceive to be an expensive, time-consuming, and inefficient court-supervised probate/Succession procedure to gain access to your estate assets. You can proactively arrange an estate legal program to enable your loved ones to receive your estate without having to be burdened by these court procedures.

3. Protect Assets from Long Term Care Costs. If you must enter a nursing home with assets in your name, you will be forced to deplete those assets on your long term care expenses until you are left with less than $2,000 in your name. You can take actions ahead of time to protect them but stay in control of them. This is a huge problem for the middle class that most don't address until it's too late.

4. Put the Right People in Charge. Absent your direction, a judge will select someone to handle your finances, make your medical decisions, and oversee the distribution of your estate. You will want to control who makes the decisions when you are no longer able to make them for yourself.

5. Avoid Taxes. Most estates avoid the 40% estate tax, but virtually every family faces income and capital gains tax consequences when family assets are transitioned from one generation to the next. You can be proactive and minimize these tax burdens for your family.

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 Keep Your Farm or "Family Property" in the Family for Future Generations

Many parents who have both children and grandchildren want to keep some of the property that they own so that their kids and grandkids can enjoy the property for many years to come. Perhaps the parents have seen how much their kids and grandkids enjoy the property.

However, when parents pass away and their property is left to children, property rules apply that may conflict with what the parents are trying to accomplish. Customizing the right legal program can ensure that one rogue descendant, or perhaps even the spouse of one child or grandchild, will not be able to mess up or destroy the family property that you'd want them all to enjoy.

First, let's look at some of the Louisiana laws that apply when multiple owners own real estate in Louisiana. Louisiana has a rule that states that no owner can be compelled to own property with another. When children inherit their parents' land, the children are considered "owners in indivision."

Anyone who owns an undivided interest in real estate in Louisiana, regardless of how big or small their ownership interest, can sell their ownership interest, or can force a "partition" of the property. The two kinds of partition are "partition in kind" and "partition by licitation."

When a piece of property is susceptible to being divided into lots, an owner can force a partition in kind whereby each owner would wind up with their own tract. Or, particularly if property is not susceptible to division into lots, an owner in indivision can force a sale of the property and the proceeds would be distributed to the co-owners in proportion to their ownership interest in the property.

Due to these rights that co-owners have, family property often gets sold eliminating future descedants from being able to enjoy the property.

Some owners of property think that by forming a limited liability company (LLC), the owners can keep the property in the family for generations. While owners of property should consider forming an LLC, and transferring their property to it, this is more of a "protection from lawsuits" vehicle than a "keep it in the family for generations" vehicle. Placing the property in an LLC and leaving membership interests in the LLC to your descendants won't prevent an owner/member from (1) selling or disposing of their LLC interest; (2) a member's creditor seizing their interest; or (3) giving or bequeathing their LLC membership interest to a non-family member.

These conversations about keeping property in the family for generations often turn toward creating a family trust. Parents would name a trustee or co-trustees (perhaps the "responsible" descendant") who will manage the trust assets for the benefit of all of the children and grandchildren. Backup trustees would need to be provided for since this trust may be in existence for many decades. Thanks to trust law, the descendants (trust beneficiaries) would not be permitted to sell, alienate, or mortgage, their interest in the trust, and the creditors of a beneficiary could not seize their interest in the trust.

Other issues to consider before pulling the trigger on something like this include the gift and estate tax, future Medicaid qualification, leaving funds to the trust to provide for ongoing management and expenses, and perhaps having the parents transfer the property (or their LLC which owns the property) to a revocable trust now (which trust would become irrevocable when the parents die) in order to avoid having the property go through a court-supervised probate proceeding when they pass away.

Every set of family circumstances is unique. You likely only have one "shot" to get it right. And the decisions that you make (or don't make) will affect your descendants for many, many years to come.

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

Designating Your Spouse versus a Trust for your Spouse as Beneficiary of your IRA

A common estate planning principle communicated by spouses who have children from prior marriages and relationships is, “If I predecease my spouse, I want my assets to be available for my surviving spouse’s needs, but when my surviving spouse dies, I want my assets to revert back to MY children.”

This can get complicated when the estate consists of Traditional IRAs, as many estates do. Let’s take the example of a Husband and Wife who each have two children. When H dies, his IRA is worth $1,000,000. In the year after Husband dies, Wife is 80 years old.  

When it comes to income tax planning and IRAs, most recommend to keep the IRA balance as large as possible, allowing an IRA owner to earn investment income on deferred income taxes. 

In this post we will discuss two strategies: (1) Naming the surviving spouse as the designated beneficiary of Husband’s IRA; and (2) Naming a trust (for the benefit of the spouse) as the beneficiary of Husband’s IRA. 

When a surviving spouse is the designated beneficiary of an IRA, the surviving spouse’s ability to roll over inherited benefits to her own IRA gives her a powerful tax-deferring option, not available to any other IRA beneficiaries. If the surviving spouse holds the IRA as an owner, her Required Minimum Distributions (RMDs) are determined using the Uniform Lifetime Table under which her Applicable Distribution Period (ADP) is the joint life expectancy of the surviving spouse and a hypothetical 10-years-younger beneficiary. If she withdraws only the RMDs under the Uniform Lifetime Table, the IRA is guaranteed to outlive the surviving spouse. And it’s likely that the IRA will be worth more in the surviving spouse’s late 80’s than it was when she inherited it at age 80. 

Let’s look at some numbers. Since Wife can use the Uniform Lifetime Table, her first required distribution the year after Husband dies (assuming a $1,000,000 IRA value) is $53,500 (5.35% of the IRA value). The next year her RMD is 5.59%. And the next year, 5.85%. If the investment performance of the IRA exceeds these distribution percentages, and she only takes the RMDs, the IRA will grow.  

The downside, however, is that since Wife is treated as the owner of the IRA, Wife can name whoever she wants as the beneficiary of beneficiaries of her IRA. She could exclude Husband’s children by naming Wife’s children, or perhaps even Wife’s new spouse that she married after Husband died! 

So instead of naming Wife as the designated beneficiary of Husband’s IRA, Husband considers naming a trust for Wife as beneficiary. The trust instrument might provide that RMDs go to Wife for her lifetime, but when Wife subsequently dies, trust assets revert back to Husband’s children. But since a trust was named as the beneficiary of Husband’s IRA, even if the trust qualifies as a “see-through” trust, RMDs after Husband dies will be based on the single life expectancy of the surviving spouse (Wife) which results in substantially less income tax deferral than would be available if the surviving spouse were named as the outright beneficiary and rolled over the benefits into her own IRA. 

Let’s look back at the numbers. If a trust for Wife is named as beneficiary of Husband’s IRA, the first RMD when Wife is 80 (based on the same $1,000,000 IRA) will be $98,000 (9.8% of the IRA value). At age 81, the RMD will exceed 10% of the account value. And each year, the percentage will increase. If Wife lives long enough after Husband dies, the RMDs based on the required single life expectancy table will cause most of the benefits to be distributed to Wife outright which will defeat the purpose of trying to protect those IRA assets for Husband’s children. 

So keep in mind that there are tradeoffs when it comes to naming beneficiaries of IRAs.

How To Amend or Modify a Revocable Living Trust

It is common for people, as part of the estate planning process, to establish a revocable living trust to provide for the disposition of trust assets outside of probate. Occasionally, people who previously established a revocable living trust want to amend or modify or revoke their trust.

Reasons why people would amend their revocable living trust include someone wanting to change the beneficiaries of their trust; someone wanting to amend how a beneficiary receives his or her portion or share; or perhaps changing the name of the Successor Trustee who is in charge of administering the trust after the death of the Settlor (the person who established the trust).

So, how do you amend or revoke your trust? Well, you must first look to the state law of the state that governs the trust instrument. The following is an overview of the Louisiana law applicable to modifying or revoking a trust.

What you should never do is pull out a pen and pencil and start marking on your trust. None of this will be valid. Most trust amendments or revocations in Louisiana are done by authentic act. An authentic act, generally, is a writing executed before a notary public and two witnesses, and signed by the person amending their trust, the witnesses, and the notary. Most trust amendments are done this way.

The Louisiana Trust Code also provides for modifying a trust by act under private signature, and also by testament. Even though Louisiana law provides for three different ways to modify a trust, most amendments are done through an authentic act.

Bottom line - don't try to amend or revoke a will or trust without getting some legal help from an estate attorney. Different rules apply to wills and trusts, and you must work with an attorney who understands all of this and helps you get it right the first time - there is too much at stake.

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 Keep Your Sons-In-Law and Daughters-In-Law Out of Your Estate

It's common for parents to want to keep their sons-in-law and daughters-in law out of their estate, for a variety of reasons. Common reasons include the fact that the in-law spends too much money; the in-law has their own kids; the in-law will inherit from their own parents and grandparents; some parents want to keep everything in the "bloodlines" because they inherited from parents and grandparents; others just don't like their in-laws; and others fear that their children will get divorced in the future and lose their inheritance.

Parents have several options when establishing an estate legal program. One option is simply leave the inheritance to the child - outright. Some parents reason that an inheritance is the separate property of the child so that should take care of it. However, inheritances that children receive are often, either intentionally or unintentionally, commingled with community property causing the inheritance to lose its separate property status.

A second option parents have is to leave their child's inheritance to a trust for the benefit of the child. If the parents name the child as the trustee, the child's spouse could exert influence over the child and force the child to take excessive distributions from the trust. But some parents tell me, "Let's leave it to a trust for our child and name our child as the trustee. If our child screws it up, so be it. We did what we could do to try to protect him without taking away his access to his inheritance."

A third option is to leave your child's inheritance to a trust, but name a 3rd party as the trustee of the trust - in essence restricting your child's access to his or her inheritance. By restricting your child's access to the trust, your are restricting your child's spouse from influencing your child to access the trust. You may even wish to name your child's children as the principal beneficiaries of the trust so that when your child later passes away, remaining trust assets would stay in the bloodlines benefiting your grandchildren. Your child's withdrawal or distribution rights become key components to this program.

There are many factors that play into how you leave an inheritance to your children. You must factor in the Louisiana community property law, the Louisiana Trust Code, laws which state that fruits of separate property are community property, family law, marriage contract law, and laws allowing spouses to sign a Declaration reserving the fruits of separate property as separate property.

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

Four Key Medicaid Rules Regarding Bank Accounts as Countable Resources

Many indviduals, couples, and families are concerned that a nursing home stay will cause them to deplete their life savnigs, and force them to lose their home to the State of Louisiana when they die due to the State's Estate Recovery Rights.

While it is important to take advantage of legal strategies to protect your estate from nursing home poverty at least five years before you wind up in a nursing home, it's also important to understand what you can and cannot own at the time one goes into a nursing home and applies for Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid.

A single person can have no more than $2,000 of Countable Resources when they apply for Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid. Bank accounts are a Countable Resource. This post takes a closer look at four key Medicaid rules regarding bank accounts as a Countable Resource for purposes of Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid.

(1) 1st Day of Month. Medicaid counts the balance shown by your bank for the first moment of the first day of the month. Be prepared to furnish banking records.

(2) Encumbrances Deducted From Bank Balance. If you have written a check for a legal obligation, and that check has not cleared by the first moment of the first day of the month, the encumbrance may be deducted from the actual bank balance.

(3) Unrestricted Access ("or") Accounts. The Medicaid applicant is presumed to be the owner of all funds held in an "or" account.

(4) Rebutting the Presumption for an "or" Account. If the Medicaid applicant is not the owner of funds in an "or" account, the applicant can rebut the presumption of ownership by providing written and corroborating statements regarding ownership, withdrawals, and deposits, along with a change in account title or the establishment of a new account with only the Medicaid applicant's funds.

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

Prohibited Substitution in Louisiana Last Will is Null

The Prohibited Substitution estate planning rules in Louisiana are a trap for the unwary. When someone writes a Louisiana last will and testament, or a trust, in a way that it contains a prohibited substitution, then the bequest is null.

So, what is a prohibited substitution? Well, here's an example of a provision in a Will that would be interpreted as a prohibited substitution, "I leave ownership of X to Person 1. I require that Person 1 preserve X and, when Person 1 dies, I require that Person 1 leave ownership of X to Person 2."

You cannot donate or leave something in full ownership to one person with a charge to preserve it and deliver it to a second person at the death of the first person. You would be depriving the first person from the power of testation.

A prohibited substitution might be something that I'd see in an olographic testament. Some people attempt to write their own wills in their own handwriting, but they mess up the provisions of the Will. People in Louisiana sometimes argue that they can write their own valid will, but they often fail to realize that the wording that they put in their will can make their loved one's lives miserable.

A prohibited substitution is null - it's as if it was never written. The bequest to the first person is not even valid.

There are a couple of alternative you can use if you want to leave an asset for the benefit of someone, and then when that someone dies, have the asset pass along to another someone. One way to do this is to use a trust - check with your estate planning attorney to help you do this the right way. Another option that might be feasible is to leave usufruct of an asset to someone, and name the naked owner to receive the asset at the termination of the usufruct. Again, check with your estate planning attorney to make sure that you understand the pros and cons of leaving things in trust or in usufruct.

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

Transfer on Death (TOD) and Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS) Designations Not Recognized in Louisiana

Many Louisiana residents get confused because they are under the assumption that they can name beneficiaries on their non-retirement accounts at their investment company - but they can't.

Example. Mom and Dad have three accounts at the investment company. Dad owns a traditional IRA. Mom owns a traditional IRA. And they have a joint investment account. They come into the law office to discuss how to leave assets to each other and their family outside of probate and they are convinced that they have named beneficiaries on all of their investment accounts. They later discover that they were only permitted to designate beneficiaries on their IRAs, but not their joint investment account. While other states permit probate avoidance designations on investment accounts, like Transfer on Death (TOD) and Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS), these designations are not recognized for Louisiana residents and investment companies do not permit their Louisiana customers to make these designations.

The following are a few examples of large investment companies that realize that the State of Louisiana does not recognize these designations, and thus, state so in their paperwork:

(1) Edward Jones Transfer on Death Agreement. "This Agreement shall not be valid and shall be of no effect in the State of Louisiana." https://www.edwardjones.com/images/transfer-on-death-agreement.pdf

(2) Merrill Lynch Joint Account Agreement. "JTWROS: Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship (not available for Louisiana residents)." https://olui2.fs.ml.com/Publish/Content/application/pdf/GWMOL/Joint_Account_Tenancy_Agreement_-_1277.pdf

(3) Merrill Lynch TOD Agreement. Transfer On Death Accounts are available to Account Owners (defined below) who reside in all states within the United States (other than Louisiana)." https://olui2.fs.ml.com/publish/content/application/pdf/GWMOL/TransferOnDeathAgreement.pdf

(4) T Rowe Price TOD Agreement. "TOD is not recognized by the state of Louisiana, so we do not offer TOD for Louisiana residents." https://individual.troweprice.com/Retail/Shared/PDFs/todreg.pdf?src=AccountFinder

(5) Charles Schwab Designated Beneficiary Plan Agreement. "The Plan is not available in Louisiana." https://www.schwab.com/public/file/P-831898/APP10780-16-ADA_-_5_19_2017.pdf

A related issue affects Louisiana bank account holders who make a POD (Payable on Death) Designation. Louisiana banking laws simply release banks from liability to heirs or the estate for paying a beneficiary in accordance with the POD Designation. But if the account owner has different heirs pursuant to a Will or Trust, the POD beneficiary may be accountable to those funds they received.

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 Double Step Up In Basis: Traditional Planning Makes Kids Pay Extra Capital Gains Tax

This describes how the traditional methods of estate planning for married couples causes children or other heirs and beneficiaries to pay extra capital gains tax due to the failure to take advantage of the double step-up in basis.

In the old days (about a decade ago), the emphasis on estate planning was always avoiding estate tax. Married couples would arrange their wills and trusts so that when the first spouse died, assets were left either in usufruct or to an irrevocable trust so that the assets of the first spouse to die would not be included, for estate tax purposes, in the estate of the surviving spouse. Assets were left to trusts commonly referred to as A/B trusts, credit shelter trusts, survivor's and family trusts, QTIP trusts, or bypass trusts. The goal was to, by leaving assets to an irrevocable trust at the death of the first spouse, those assets would escape estate taxation upon the death of the surviving spouse.

However, this planning method did not have the best capital gains tax result. In community property states, all of the community property would get a step up in basis upon the first spouse's death (to the value at the date of the first spouse's death), but only the assets that the surviving spouse owned would recognize another step up in basis when the surviving spouse died. The family was forfeiting another step up in basis.

Now, for almost all families, the fact that all the assets get lumped into the estate of the surviving spouse is irrelevant for federal estate tax purposes. Each estate can exempt $11.2 (for deaths in 2018) from the estate tax. And since new portability law allows the surviving spouse to use any part of the exemption that went unused by the first spouse to die, married couples can shield $22.4 million) from the estate tax. Simply put, estate tax is not an issue for most families.

So now, married couples should consider doing the opposite. They should consider arranging their affairs to that all marital assets get included in the estate of the surviving spouse. So long as the total is less than the estate tax exemptions, there will be no estate tax but the heirs will benefit from another step-up in basis when the surviving spouse dies. Then, if the heirs sell previously appreciated assets, there will be no tax to pay.

A simple way to include assets in the estate of the surviving spouse is to leave ownership of those assets to the surviving spouse (through a Last Will), Or if a married couple has a living trust to avoid probate, they can provide that the trust does not become irrevocable upon the death of the first spouse. However, if there is a blended family situation, or the couple is worried that the survivor may attempt to leave assets to a second spouse, or if the surviving spouse may need to qualify for Medicaid upon entering a nursing home, that couple may want to reconsider whether or not to put the surviving spouse in complete control of the marital assets.

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

Rules on an Irrevocable Trust and Nursing Home Medicaid

This post describes the regulations that exist regarding when assets in a trust are considered resources of someone who is applying for Long Term Care Medicaid.

Many Seniors are concerned about the cost of long term care, especially if it is necessary that they spend months or years in a skilled nursing facility.

Some Seniors explore getting assets out of their name timely to make themselves eligible for Medicaid. These same Seniors, however, are uncomfortable putting assets in their children's names for fear of losing control of the assets, and for fear of giving their children unwanted tax consequences.

Some people explore putting assets in trust for purposes of gaining future Long Term Care Medicaid eligibility. The Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid Eligibility Manual (the "Manual") has specific rules regarding whether trust assets are considered a resource of the Medicaid applicant, rendering them ineligible for Medicaid benefits.

Regarding when the Medicaid applicant is a trustee of a trust, the Manual provides:

"Count the trust as a resource, regardless of whose funds were
originally deposited into the trust, if the applicant/enrollee:
 is the trustee, and
 has the legal right to:
- revoke the trust, and
- use the money for his own benefit."

Regarding when the Medicaid applicant is a Settlor of a trust, the Manual provides:

"Count the trust as a resource if the applicant/enrollee is the settlor
(created the trust) and:
 has the right to revoke it, and
 can use the funds for his own benefit"

Regarding when assets are not considered a resource and penalty periods apply to the transfer of the assets to a trust, the Manual provides:

Consider penalties under the transfer of resource policy (refer to
I-1670 Transfer of Resources For Less Than Fair Market Value) if
the applicant/enrollee:
 created the trust,
 does not have the right to revoke it, and
 cannot use the principal for his own benefit.

The traditional "avoid probate" revocable living trust clearly is a resource for a Medicaid applicant. Many people, however, create other trusts, and transfer assets to those trusts, which can enable a Senior to avoid the risks inherent in transferring assets during into children's names, while starting the five year penalty period and protecting assets from the nursing home spend down.

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