Louisiana Succession

Should You Have a Will or Living Trust?

When people put their legal affairs in order, they have a decision to make. One of the questions they have to answer is, “ Should I use a Last Will and Testament (“Will”) as the legal instrument to pass along my estate to my heirs, or should I use a Revocable Living Trust (“Living Trust”)?

Let’s start with the basics. If you use a Will to pass your estate to your survivors, you’ll like have provisions leaving your estate, or parts of it, to your spouse, your children or others, or perhaps even leaving assets to a trust the terms of which are part of your Will (called a “testamentary trust”) that will be established with assets after your death.

With a “Will Plan,” you leave title to all your assets in your name: your home, your other real estate, your investments, and so forth. When you die, your assets are frozen (even though you had a Will), and your survivors must retain an attorney or attorneys to go through the court-supervised process of transferring assets to the people who are named in your Will.

If you have a Living Trust, your Living Trust will be prepared, for example, so that after you pass away, your trust provides that your estate, or parts of it, are to be transferred from your trust to your spouse, your children or others, or assets may remain in trust for the benefit of minors, irresponsible heirs, or heirs who are receiving government benefits so that they should not inherit assets in their name. When you establish your Living Trust, you will likely work with your estate attorney to transfer title of assets to your trust, such as your home, other real estate, investments, and so forth.

When you die, trust assets are not frozen. Attorneys and the court system do not have to get involved in the trust settlement because the court system only governs assets that are titled in your name when you die. In your Living Trust, you designated a Successor Trustee or Co-Trustees who will have immediate authority to transfer assets from your trust. Many people perceive it that their Living Trust replaces the Will.

So, which program should you have? It’s ultimately your decision, and some people make decisions like this based on their prior life experiences. Will clients often tell us something like, “When my mother died 12 years ago, I don’t remember her probate being too difficult. We had to do the probate to get the house in our names, but we were not in a big hurry.”

We hear from some Will clients the something like the following, “I don’t have any children so if my distant relatives and favorite charities named in my Will have to go through probate, so be it…I’ll be dead.”

Trust clients often tell us something like, “When my father died, his probate took years and it was difficult and expensive, and I don’t want my kids to go through that, so let’s set up a Living Trust.”

We’ll also hear, “My spouse and I want to make things as easy as we can on the surviving spouse when one of us passes, so let’s establish a Trust.”

Other Living Trust clients say, “If my spouse and I can establish a Living Trust and avoid the future delays and expenses of two probates (one when each of us dies), then a Living Trust seems like a no-brainer.”

And other Living Trust clients tell us, “We pre-arranged our funerals to make things as easy on our survivors and we’d like to do the same kind of pre-planning and pre-arrangements for our estate.”

Now, if you go the Living Trust route, make sure you watch my popular YouTube video titled, “If You Have a Revocable Living Trust, Watch This Now,” which address the important topic of trust funding.

Bottom line or Will vs. Living Trust? Take action. Talk to an estate attorney. Hopefully the attorney’s own biases don’t preclude you from making an informed decision. But get started. Failing to act puts the government in complete control of your estate, and who wants that?

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

Two Types of Louisiana Last Wills: Part One - The Olographic Testament

In Louisiana, there are only two forms of valid Wills (known by our Louisiana law as “testaments.” The two forms are: olographic and notarial. This post addresses the less popular olographic (some people refer to it as an “holographic” Will).

When we discuss whether a handwritten Will is valid, we must look to the terms of the Louisiana statute that defines and olographic testament. Note that there are many, many court cases where lawyers have argued, and judges have determined, whether someone’s handwritten attempt at a Will is valid, and if so, how it should be interpreted.

Nonetheless, our Louisiana law states that “An olographic testament is one entirely written, dated, and signed in the handwriting of the testator.” The statute goes on to state, in part, what it means to be dated and signed, including the fact that writings after the signature do not make the testament invalid and such writing may be considered by the court, in its discretion, as part of the testament.

Many people think that if they just meet the validity requirements of an olographic testament, then everything will go hunky-dory when they pass away. But those people should think again.

It’s easy to make a valid olographic testament, but problems often surface after the death of the testator because the wording was either insufficient, ambiguous, errors were made, reasonable contingencies were not addressed, or bequests were made outright to people when they should not have due to age or financial immaturity.

The bottom line on Louisiana olographic Wills is that it is possible, if not simple, to write your own Will that would be recognized by a Louisiana court as a valid Will. However, if the reason you attempted to write your own Will was to save some costs today, know that the future costs to your estate and your heirs (both financial and emotional costs) will far outweigh any savings you felt you realized by making your own olographic testament.

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 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

Value Estate Assets High or Low After Death?

When working with surviving family members after the death of a loved one, the survivors often want my help to help them deploy a strategy to value the assets of the deceased. The survivors often want to know whether estate assets should be valued high or low. I typically tell them that this is not a "game" that they can play, they are bound to have assets valued at "fair market value." Nonetheless, some people feel they can wiggle the values if it benefits them.

Very few estate are subject to the 40% federal estate tax. However, those survivors who face an estate tax typically want to see assets valued as low as reasonable in order to avoid as much of the 40% estate tax as possible.

Survivors of estates that do not have to face the federal estate tax, however, may have the opposite strategy. Since estate assets benefit from the step up in basis, survivors often want estate assets valued as high as reasonably possible in order to get the maximum step-up in basis. 

Certain assets owned by a deceased are not subject to varying fair market values. Cash, bank accounts, and publicly traded securities are easily valued as of the date of death - merely determine the account balances.

Other assets, however, are subject to subjective determinations of fair market value. Land, rental property, other real estate, and ownership interests in a business, are often difficult to value as of the date of death of the owner.

The IRS has a definition of fair market value. The IRS defines fair market value as the amount that which property would change hands between a willing buyer and a willing seller, neither being under any compulsion to buy or sell, with both parties having reasonable knowledge of relevant facts.

Our system is not necessarily set up as a "game" that survivors can play and arbitrarily determine fair market value after their family members die. Nonetheless, when estate tax is an issue, heirs often attempt to encourage appraisers to appraise assets "low." While when estate tax is not an issue, survivors want to see assets assets valued "high" to take maximum advantage of the step-up in basis. And since so few estates are subject to estate tax these days, most estates benefit from the "higher" valuations.

Note that these rules do not apply to IRAs. There is no step up in basis of investments inside an IRA. Any distributions from a traditional IRA are subject to income tax.

Also, some Louisiana residents mistakenly believe that the asset value listed in the Sworn Detailed List of Assets and Liabilities filed in the deceased's Succession proceeding is the end-all, say-all when it comes to estate valuation. But of course the IRS can always question any valuation the family puts on the Sworn Descriptive List.

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

The Louisiana Usufruct: Who is Liable for Repairs?

This post describes who is liable for repairs when someone owns the usufruct of property, while others are naked owners.

It's common in Louisiana for a spouse to leave their surviving spouse the usufruct of property. Here's an example: Wife and Husband marry, each for the second time. They each have children from their prior marriages. Wife owns the home they live in. Wife doesn't want Husband to be homeless if she predeceases him, so she writes a will and leaves Husband the lifetime usufruct of her home, and she names her children (Husband's step-children) as the naked owners of her home.

Wife dies. Husband and Wife's children somehow cooperate enough to complete the Succession. Husband is now living in the home. And let's say the home is 40 years old and in need of constant repair. Who is responsible for these repairs. The usufructuary? The naked owners?

There are several Louisiana laws that address liability for repairs in these circumstances. The general rule is that the usufructuary is responsible for ordinary maintenance and repairs, while the naked owner is responsible for extraordinary repairs, unless the usufructuary's fault or neglect cause the extraordinary repairs to become necessary.

Extraordinary repairs are those for the reconstruction of the whole or a substantial part of the property subject to usufruct. All others are ordinary repairs. As you might imagine, usufructaries will argue that all repairs are extraordinary. Naked owners will argue that all repairs are ordinary. 

During the existence of the usufruct, a naked owner can compel the usufuctuary to make the repairs for which the usufructuary is responsible. 

But the usufructuary may not compel the naked owner to make the extraordinary repairs for which the naked owner is responsible. And if the naked owner refuses to make these extraordinary repairs, the usufructuary may do so, and the usufructuary shall be reimbursed without interest by the naked owner at the end of the usufruct.

If, in the above example, the usufruct does not end until the death of the usufructuary, then the usufructuary's estate will likely seek this reimbursement from the naked owners after the usufructuary dies.

In addition, there are even more rules that address when, for example, a usufructuary abandons his usufruct, or when property has been totally destroyed through accident, but this post should give the basic information you may be looking for regarding the liability for repairs.

Make sure you address these things the right way on the front end so they don't became a disaster on the back end. Work with the right estate planning attorney who will listen to your objectives and suggest the best ways for you to leave a legacy behind - instead of a mess that winds up in court.

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

Collation Explained - Louisiana Estate Planning Law

When someone asks me what "Collation" means, it's typically because they've seen the word referenced in a last will and testament, and they don't know what it means.

This post describes a little history and current application of Louisiana collation law.

Back in the pre-1990's, there was a presumption in Louisiana estate law that parents were supposed to, from an inheritance standpoint, treat their children equally. If a parent made a gift to one child during the parent's lifetime, collation laws required that gift to be considered as an advance on that child's inheritance. 

So, back in the pre-1990's, parents were permitted, in their last will and testament, to dispense their lifetime gifts from collation so that lifetime gifts would not be considered an advance on a child's inheritance.

Then, in the 1990's the Louisiana Collation law changed significantly in a way that reduces the scope and application of collation by limiting the right to demand collation to children who qualify as forced heirs, and collation only applies with respect to gifts made within three years prior to the parent's death.

Now, under collation law, if a child is 24 and not otherwise disabled,  he or she is not permitted to demand collation. And a grandchild is not permitted to demand collation, even if he or she qualifies as a forced heir.

Nonetheless, many attorneys still include a provision in their client's wills stating, in effect, that the client's lifetime gifts are exempt from collation.

I haven't seen or heard anyone around our office discuss a potential collation claim in decades. Collation claims just don't come up much any more due to its limited scope. I suppose, however, it does not hurt to keep the "dispense from collation" provision in Louisiana last wills, even though it causes some confusion because clients have no idea what it means. 

However, now with this post, you know!

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

Powers When Multiple Executors or Trustees are Named

When people establish wills or trusts, they often want to designate more than one executor or more than one trustee. This video describes what it takes to exercise powers when multiple executors or trustees are named in Louisiana. Note that each state can be different so check with an attorney in your state to guide you through these matters.

Most people are not aware that the Louisiana Succession procedure (regarding executors) and the Louisiana Trust Code (regarding trustees) have different provisions and different applications.

Here are three rules you should be aware of when considering naming more than one executor or co-trustee:

(1) Executors. Louisiana Succession law provides that when there are several executors named, all action by them shall be taken jointly. Provisions in the will can alter this rule.

(2) Two trustees named. If there are two trustees of a trust named, the powers conferred upon them shall be exercised only by both of them. The trust instrument or a court could alter these default provisions.

(3) Three+ Trustees. A power conferred in three or more trustees may be exercised by a majority of the trustees, unless the trust instrument provides otherwise.

So, when three executors are named in a will, action by them shall be taken jointly. But if three trustees are named in a trust, actions by them may be taken by a majority.

I do not know why there is this distinction and difference between our Louisiana Succession law and our Louisiana Trust Code, but you should fully understand these differences when you are working with an attorney to prepare your will or trust, and you are naming more than one person to be in charge when you die. Many parents do not want to show favoritism toward just one child, so they designate all of their children to fill these roles.

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 Required in Louisiana to Become an Independent Executor or an Independent Administrator?

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

Estate Planning Case Study: Married Couple with $3m Estate

While every individual and couple that engages in estate planning has a different set of circumstances - no two are the same, the following is a case study of a Louisiana couple that has accumulated some wealth, never engaged in estate planning before, has two adult children who are late 20's and early 30s, and wants to keep control of their estate, provide for the surviving spouse, preserve it for the kids, keep estate matters simple, and avoid tax and government interference.

Let's say that the couple owns a home in Louisiana and a condo on the beach in another state. The husband worked for a chemical company, built up his 401(k), and when he retired, he rolled over his 401(k) into his traditional IRA. They have a joint brokerage account, vehicles, and a boat. Total estate is $3,000,000.

Some of the issues we would discuss include:

(1) First Spouse Dies. We would discuss how they want to leave their estate to their spouse when the first spouse dies. Do they want to leave their estate in full ownership to their spouse? Do they want to leave their estate in trust for their spouse so that assets get preserved for the children after the surviving spouse dies? Or, since they live in Louisiana, do they want to leave usufruct to their spouse, giving their spouse an obligation to account to the kids at the termination of the usufruct? Each of these options has varied estate tax, income tax, and capital gains tax consequences. Gotta do this right the first time before the first spouse dies.

(2) Surviving Spouse Dies. Do they want to leave assets to their children outright or in trust? Do any children have special needs, the inability to handle a lump sum inheritance, marital issues, or some other issues that would warrant leaving the inheritance to a child in trust? Lots to discuss here.

(3) Who's In Charge When You Can't? Who should be primary and backup for Trustee, Executor, Durable Power of Attorney, Health Care Power of Attorney, etc. We'd discuss the life-support machines decision.

(4) Taxes. We discuss the distribution rules for IRAs and retirement accounts and how those rules differ for spouse and non-spouses as beneficiaries. We'd discuss the step-up and double step-up in basis which can save the heirs a fortune when the sell your assets.

(5) Avoid Probate. We'd discuss the pros and cons of the "Will Based Plan" and the "Revocable Living Trust Based Plan," which can allow the surviving spouse and the children to avoid multiple probates in multiple states - given that the couple owns real estate in two states. The RLT Program would keep brokerage accounts from being frozen in the future.

Again, since very person is different - their objectives, their family, what they own, don't take this info and think that it perfectly applies to you. You need to work with the right estate planning attorney the first time so that problems don't surface later.

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

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