Louisiana Probate

What Legal Matters to Address When Loved One Dies Unexpectedly

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

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

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

Did he have his legal affairs in order?

Did she have a will or a trust?

How do we cover funeral expenses?

What did the deceased own and owe?

How will income taxes be handled?

What happens to all personal effects?

How do we deal with the deceased's business?

How do the monthly bills keep getting paid?

Who is responsible for dealing with all of this?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

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

Don't Handwrite Changes on Your Last Will and Testament

I've seen many people over the years want to make changes to their existing last will and testament. Without knowing any better, they pull out their existing will, grab pen or pencil, and cross through the things they want to change while writing in replacement provisions.

For example, someone may want to change their executor. They feel that the previous executor they named (let's call him "Joe") is now a bum, and they want to replace Joe with Fred.

Or, let's say a Will provides a specific bequest either to an individual or charity of $100,000. But the testator now wants to change that bequest to $5,000.

There are a couple of Louisiana laws that are in play here. First, Louisiana law provides, in pertinent part, that a revocation of a testamentary provision occurs when the testator clearly revokes the provision or legacy by a signed writing on the testament itself.

So, the Louisiana rules are somewhat relaxed to permit the revocation of a provision in a last will by a signed writing that is not dated but which clearly revokes the provision.

However, regarding a replacement provision, the formalities are more stringent. Louisiana law provides that, "Any other modification of a testament must be in one of the forms prescribed for testaments.

Example: A woman pulls out her old will naming Joe as the executor. She scratches through Joe's name, writes in Fred's name, and signs the change. The result would be that Joe is no longer the executor because she revoked the provision by a signed writing, but Fred will not be the executor, because this modification is not in one of the forms prescribed for testaments - it does not meet the formality requirements of an olographic testament because it is not dated.

Be very careful when you attempt to change your Will. Your safest bet is to work with an attorney who understands the rules as they relate to revocations and modifications of testaments.

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

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

Phone: (225) 329-2450

What If Heir Refuses To Accept Inheritance Of Money or Item?

Occasionally, for unfortunate emotional or relationship issues, there is an heir of an estate who refuses to accept either the inheritance of money or the inheritance of a specific item. This can cause the probate or Succession to come to a screaching halt, causing delays and expense for everyone involved.

While it is not uncommon for an heir to formally "disclaim" an inheritance for a variety of reasons, such as income, gift, or estate tax reasons, it is uncommon for someone to fail to communicate even though a small amount of communication could result in a financial windfall for the individual.

Louisiana Succession law has a procedure to address this. If an heir refuses to accept and sign a receipt for an inheritance of funds, then, after a hearing, the court may order an executor to deposit the funds in either a state or national bank, or in the registry of the court to the credit of the person entitled to the funds. A receipt showing the court that the deposit was made is sufficient to allow the executor to be discharged.

If an heir refuses to receive an item (called in Louisiana, a "corporeal movable"), then the court may direct the executor to make some other disposition of the item.

It is worth noting that this same thing can happen when a trust beneficiary refuses to accept a distribution of trust principal. While our trust code does not specifically address this issue, it would make sense that these funds sit in a trust account for the benefit of the refusing beneficiary, or perhaps the trustee could petition the proper court for some direction.

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

What Is a "Pour-Over" Will?

Generally, people who establish an estate planning legal program either establish a Will-based estate plan or a Trust-based estate plan. When someone establishes a Trust-based plan, often one of the goals is to have assets titled in the name of the trust at death so that those assets can be distributed immediately to the trust beneficiaries without going through the Louisiana Succession, and its inherent delays, expenses, and aggravations.

People often ask, "If I have a trust, do I need a Will." Well, a pour over will is used in conjunction with a trust based plan. The purpose of the pour over will is to serve as a safety net. If, either intentionally or unintentionally, assets at death are titled in the name of the person who established the trust, then the probate proceeding will be necessary to pour-over those individually owned assets into the trust. 

Often, the ideal scenario is to have all assets titled correctly so that, at death, there are no "probate assets" in the individual's name, and the pour-over Will does not even need to be used. But the pour-over will is prepared and signed in virtually every instance where there is a trust-based plan.

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 Get an Executor of a Succession Confirmed

The purpose of this post is to walk you through the detailed steps of getting an executor of a Louisiana Succession confirmed. Once confirmed by the court, the executor can then access accounts of the decedent, sell Succession assets, and have other powers that enable the executor to start the process of settling an estate.

Just being named as an executor in a Will does not give the named executor the authority to act. They must first go through the process of getting confirmed by a court. The following are the steps to getting an executor confirmed:

(1) Must have the original last will and testament - the one that was actually signed. The will names the executor.

(2) A petition to probate the Will and ask the judge to confirm the executor.

(3) The executor will sign a Verification of the above-mentioned Petition.

(4) Two people who knew the deceased will each sign an Affidavit of Death, Domicile, and Heirship. This proves to a judge that the deceased died and that he had a Will and whether the deceased had forced heirs.

(5) The executor signs an Oath that they will faithfully perform their duties as executor.

(6) We will prepare and file and submit the court order that we want the judge to sign confirming that the executor has been confirmed.

(7) We will prepare Letters of Independent Executorship. The clerk of court will make several certified copies. The executor needs certified copies of these Letters to move frozen financial accounts into an estate account.

(8) We have the named executor sign an Application for Tax ID Number. This number is necessary so that the executor can open an estate account.

So we file all the court pleadings and we wait - often a few weeks - for the court pleadings to be processed. We get it back and get certified copies of the Letters to the newly confirmed executor. And we are off and running.

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 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

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

The Louisiana Independent Executor

In 2001, Louisiana law first authorized the independent administration of a Succession. Prior to that time, any act that an executor or administrator took in the administration of a Succession was required to be approved by a judge. If the executor wanted to pay a utility bill, it must have been approved by a judge. If an administrator wanted to sell the clunker vehicle for $500, it had to be approved by a judge in advance of the sale. If an executor wanted to sell the home of a deceased person, a burdensome amount of legal advertising and judicial approval was required to sell the home. It made the administration of a Succession very difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

Now, Louisiana allows executors to be "independent executors." And Louisiana law allows administrators of an intestate Succession to be "independent administrators." So what does that mean?

An independent executor and independent administrator can take certain actions without having to get pre-approval by a judge. The independent administration does not by any means eliminate the Succession, but the independent administrator or independent executor can pay bills, sell Succession assets, and take other certain specific actions without having to get a judge to approve the action in advance. The inventory or sworn detailed descriptive list is still required. Accountings are required (unless waived), and a judge is still required to order the transfer of assets.

How does one become an independent executor? One of two ways. Either the Will authorizes it expressly. Or, if the Will does not authorize it, the heirs all sign off on an Agreement to allow the executor to be independent.

How does an Administrator become an Independent Administrator. Well, all of the heirs who will inherit under state law must sign an Agreement to allow the court-appointed Administrator to be an Independent Administrator.

Note that if you are involved in a Succession in Louisiana and the executor or administrator is not independent, it is highly likely that one or more parties are being uncooperative, and the Succession will last a long time and be a significant burden on all parties involved.

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.

Four Reasons To Administer The Louisiana Succession

When a resident of Louisiana dies with assets in their name, there is likely a Succession necessary. Financial accounts are likely frozen, real estate cannot be sold or transferred, and other estate settlement issues need to be addressed.

The simplest of Successions are handled without an administration. Let's say Husband died and the only asset in his name is the home he owns with Wife. Wife has no interest in an immediate sale of the home. This Succession, perhaps, can be completed without an administration. The attorney prepares the pleadings petitioning the judge to order that the home be transferred to Wife.

In many cases, however, an Administration is necessary because things need to be handled prior to the conclusion of the Succession. When an administration occurs, a judge either confirms the executor that was named in the will, or the judge appoints an Administrator of a Succession when no Will existed. The following are four reasons why an administration may be necessary as part of completing a Louisiana Succession:

(1) Need Access To Funds. When someone dies, often their accounts are frozen. When an executor is confirmed, or an administrator is appointed, on the front end of the Succession, that person can establish an estate account and move funds from frozen accounts into the estate account. This is often a necessary step if bills need to be paid, or the Succession incurs expenses, or mortgages or car notes must be paid, while the Succession is taking place.

(2) Best For One Person To Handle Financial Issues. Without an administration, it can be cumbersome for the family to wait for months or longer to share in the inheritance, only to be asked to give some of their inheritance back to cover Succession debts or expenses. It is often easier for an executor or administrator to be confirmed or appointed, and then that person can take care of all Succession related debts, expenses, or other matters, and then disburse remaining funds or assets to the several heirs at the conclusion of the Succession.

(3) Funds Payable To Estate. Sometimes a deceased person is entitled to funds. Perhaps the deceased is entitled to a tax refund from the IRS or the state. Or perhaps the deceased is entitled to a refund for funds advanced to a nursing home or assisted living facility. The funds will be remitted to the deceased person's estate. When a check is payable to estate, no individual can deposit that check. It must be deposited into an Estate account. The only way to create an estate account is to administer a Succession, have an executor confirmed or administrator appointed, and then have that person open an estate account.

(4) Succession Assets Need To Be Sold. It is not uncommon for a Succession to need to sell a vehicle of the deceased, a piece of real estate, an investment, or some other asset in the name of the deceased. Sure, you could wait months or years until the Succession is complete, and then transfer the vehicle to the five heirs, and then have the five heirs each individually do all of the paperwork to sell the vehicle. But it may be easier, on the front end, to have an executor confirmed or an administrator appointed, and then have that one person transact the Succession asset by himself or herself, and simply deposit the sale proceeds in the estate account for later distribution to the heirs.

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.

Who Should Be the Administrator of a Louisiana Succession?

When someone dies in Louisiana owning assets in their name, a Louisiana Succession is required to administer those assets and transfer them to the heirs. When someone in those circumstances dies leaving a last will and testament, the Will likely appointed an executor. But if no last will exists, then often a judge must appoint an Administrator of the Succession. So, who should be the Administrator of a Succession?

Once appointed, the Administrator often opens an Estate bank account, deposits funds from previously frozen accounts into the estate account, pays estate expenses from the estate account, sells estate assets, such as vehicles, investments, or real estate, and handles other necessary Succession administrative matters.

But someone must petition the court and ask a judge to be appointed the Administrator. Who should that be? Well, it's best if that person has the support of all of the other heirs. If all of the heirs agree, then an Administrator can be appointed as an "Independent Administrator," which lessens some of the bureaucratic red tape that must be handled.

When a surviving parent dies, and an Administrator must be appointed, things work well when those heirs all get together and agree that one of them should be appointed the Administrator. 

Sometimes, but rarely, a co-owner of property requests to be appointed an Administrator because real estate needs to be sold, the deceased was a co-owner, and another co-owner petitions the court to be appointed the Administrator so that the property can be sold.

Note that an Administrator will be entitled to compensation from the estate. Sometimes, an Administrator will waive their compensation because the Administrator wants to sell of the heirs treated equally. In addition, an Administrator's fee would be taxable income to the Administrator, while an inheritance is generally income tax free.

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.

Avoid Multiple Probates When Owning Property in Multiple States

Was helping a gentleman put his estate legal program in place. He had an old olographic last will and testament but he knew his family would need to go through probate when he died, and he knew he had none of the incapacity legal planning in place.

He owned a home here in Louisiana. And he owned a property on the beach in Florida, and he owned some land in Mississippi. We talked about how, if he owned all of that property in his name when he died, his family would first go through the Louisiana Succession to get his Louisiana property and his investments transferred to them. Then, they would go hire a new set of lawyers in Florida to go through the Florida probate to get the beach property transferred to them - the Louisiana Succession does not transfer out of state real estate. And then, his family would be off to seek out Mississippi lawyers to go through a Mississippi probate to transfer the Mississippi property to the family. Three probates. Three sets of lawyers. Three delays. Three hassles.

We then discussed how he could set up one Living Trust, and transfer all of his properties from different states into the one trust.  Then, when he dies, his Successor Trustee or Co-trustees can immediately either sell the properties or transfer them out of the trust to the appropriate family members - all outside of any probate.

Owning property in several different states can be a good reason to create your trust, transfer your properties to your trust, and avoid all those probates. Probates in other states, when you lived in Louisiana, are referred to as "ancillary probates." You can avoid them by planning ahead the right way.

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

Which Assets Require a Louisiana Succession?

Only certain assets that you own require the Louisiana Succession procedure to transfer them to your heirs. That's why people say that there are "Probate Assets" and "Nonprobate Assets."

Probate assets are assets that you own that cannot be transferred at death without a court-supervised probate proceeding. Real estate is a common probate asset. Even when a spouse dies, that spouse's ownership interest in the home must be transferred pursuant to a Succession proceeding. Some states allow you to title your real estate so that it automatically goes to your spouse when you die outside of probate - but Louisiana is not one of the states that permits this. Also, if you own an undivided interest in real estate when you die, your undivided interest (for example, a 25% interest that you own along with three siblings) must be transferred to your heirs pursuant to the Succession procedure.

Another probate asset is investments - stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that you own in your name. Securities laws require that investment accounts in your name be frozen when you die. No one will be able to access these funds or investments without the appropriate court orders. Again, some national investment companies allow you and your spouse to title investment accounts with designations such as Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS), but the problem is that the State of Louisiana does not recognize this as a form of ownership. In Louisiana, all assets are either separate property or community property - regardless of how titled. This causes confusion among heirs, brokerage firms, and others.

Small businesses are another probate asset. Many people own membership interests in limited liability companies (LLCs), or they own shares in a closely held corporation, or maybe even a partnership interest. Your probate will be required when you die to transfer your small business interest to your heirs.

Bank accounts can be tricky when it comes to probate. If you have an individual bank account in your name only, it will be frozen when you die and a Succession will be required to gain access to the funds. But some people add signers to their bank accounts, or they make a Payable On Death (POD) designation, which allows banks to release funds to another party outside of probate. Check with your attorney and your bank or credit union regarding whether a Succession will be necessary to gain access to bank or credit union funds.

Typical nonprobate assets include IRAs, life insurance, annuities, and other retirement accounts that allow you to designate a beneficiary. For example, Dad died leaving an individual retirement account (IRA). Dad had named Mom as the beneficiary. After Dad dies, Mom can produce a death certificate to the financial institution where the iRA is held, and the financial institution will transfer Dad's IRA into Mom's IRA - outside of courts, lawyers, judges, and the judicial system.  Note that, however, if "The Estate"  is the beneficiary, then those funds must be part of the Succession and will require a Succession proceeding to access those funds.

Non-titled personal items often are passed to family members outside of the formal judicial proceeding. Because Dad's gun and Mom's jewelry are not titled in anyone's name when Dad and Mom die, it is common for surviving family members to deal with these non-titled personal effects outside of the formal judicial process.