Louisiana Probate

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
(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.

Final Steps To Putting Your Trust Program In Effect

Once all of the documents are ready and accurate, it is time for you to sign your legal documents and make it all official. When you sign your trust, you'll also likely sign a host of other legal documents, such as transfer documents transferring real estate to your trust, your pour-over Will, your powers of attorney and living will declaration, and more - depending upon the particular circumstances of your customized estate planning program.

Once all of the documents are signed, your attorney's office will likely record the transfers of real estate at the courthouse. This takes care of making sure that your real estate is in your trust. Also, on your trust is signed, you can visit your financial institutions and brokerage firms to re-title your investment accounts in the name of your trust. 

This process if re-titling your assets into the name of your trust is commonly referred to as "funding your trust." It's important that your trust be funded properly before you die so that your heirs won't have to deal with a judicial administration of your estate after you die.

Estate Planning When You No Longer Communicate With Child

I was working with a surviving wife who lost her husband a couple of years ago. The husband never took any time to put any kind of estate legal program in place. The husband had no communication with a child that he had from a previous marriage.

After her husband died, the wife told me she wanted to sell her home and relocate. I told her she would have to get her former step-son's written permission to be the independent administrator of her husband's Succession. She said, "That ain't gonna happen. He is not going to agree to anything unless i give him money."

We talked about how, as the Administrator of her husband's Succession, she would have to go through a lengthy process to, first, be appointed as the Administrator, and then even more lengthy, do the newspaper advertising and other judicially approved  things that will be necessary to sell the house. She realized it would be months, if not years, before she could sell the house and relocate.

All this could have been made much simpler if, prior to his death, the husband would have engaged in some meaningful estate planning to make settling his estate easier for his wife and other children. Now she is faced with this former step-son controlling many of her future moves.

Take action. Your loved ones will thank you for it.

Paul Rabalais
Law offices: All over south Louisiana
Phone: 866-491-3884

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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