Usufruct

Do Mom’s Heirs Get Money When Dad (With Lifetime Usufruct) Sells Home?

We get this question often. Here's the situation. Mom dies with a last will and testament leaving Dad the lifetime usufruct of her estate, and naming her children as the naked owners. Dad then decides to sell the family home. Do Mom's kids get any of the money from the sale? 

No. They don't. Dad's usufruct will continue over the proceeds of the sale. Mom's kids may have to sign to allow the sale to take place, but they are not entitled to any sale proceeds.

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

When Bequeathing Usufruct, Consider Leaving Naked Ownership in Trust

Across America, people typically leave their estates to their survivors through a living trust (with the goal to avoid probate) or a last will and testament. 

When a married person leaves their estate through their last will and testament, they often either leave their surviving spouse the ownership of their estate or they leave their spouse the usufruct of their estate. One of the concerns about leaving ownership of their estate to their spouse is that, potentially, the surviving spouse could ultimately leave the entire marital estate to someone other than the children (such as, a 2nd spouse).

In Louisiana, some married people write a will and leave the usufruct of their estate to their spouse, in order to protect the children's future inheritance. They leave their spouse the usufruct (often for the lifetime of the surviving spouse), and they name their children as the naked owners. However, this can cause complications under a couple of different scenarios.

When a married person dies after having written a will leaving his spouse usufruct and naming others as naked owners, then a Succession will be necessary after the first spouse dies. All of the naked owners, along with the surviving spouse, are participants (also known as "Petitioners") in the Succession, and all must agree on how Succession matters are being handled and accounted for. Successions can be complicated and, typically, the more participants involved, the more misunderstanding that occurs. In addition, with multiple parties to a Succession, especially a number of naked owners who are concerned about protecting their future inheritance, things can get tense. Sometimes relationships among siblings and their spouses can be imperfect so when they all must participate and agree on all matters related to the Succession, it can get tricky.

So let's say go ahead and assume that the Succession gets completed and, subsequently, the surviving wife wants to sell the home. Because there are naked owners, they all must participate in the listing and selling of the home. The naked owners, in addition to the surviving spouse, must sign all of the real estate closing paperwork, often even if the first spouse to die granted his wife, as usufructuary, the authority to dispose of nonconsumable things. When a surviving spouse sells the home or other property over which there are naked owners, those naked owners often have a false expectation that they are to receive some of the proceeds of the sale of the home or other property. And sibling relationships can make it difficult for everyone to agree on all aspect of the sale of property subject to usufruct.

So when a married person writes a will and leaves their spouse usufruct of their estate, they should consider leaving the naked ownership in a testamentary trust for the benefit of the naked owners, with the surviving spouse as the trustee of that testamentary trust.

It will be easier to complete the Succession after that married person dies because the surviving spouse will be the only participant in the Succession. The surviving spouse will be the only participant because she will continue to own her half of the community property, she will inherit the usufruct of the deceased spouse's half of the community property, and she will be the trustee of a trust which holds the children's naked ownership interest. Now you won't have so many personalities involved trying to settle the estate or Succession.

In addition, under this "naked ownership in trust" bequest, the surviving spouse can sell the house or other property subject to usufruct, without having to get the agreement and signatures of all of the naked owners. In essence, the surviving spouse can sign for the naked owners on the sale paperwork because she is the trustee of a trust which owns the children's naked ownership interests.

While, on its face, the Will may initially appear more confusing when you leave the naked ownership in trust with your spouse as trustee of this testamentary trust, you'll likely be doing your spouse a big favor while also protecting the interests of your children or other naked owners.

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

What is Your Standard Of Care if You Have the Louisiana Usufruct

I was asked a question recently by a husband whose wife had recently passed away. She left her husband the usufruct of a significant investment portfolio of stocks, bonds, and mutual funds. The wife named her children as the naked owners of her estate.

He asked me, "Paul, what standard am I going to be held accountable to now that I have the usufruct of an investment portfolio? I don't want the naked owners coming after me alleging that I managed the assets the wrong way?"

I told him that, in regards to a usufructuary's standard of care, the usufructuary is answerable for losses resulting from his fraud, default, or neglect.

I told him that he should be fine so long as he makes decisions that a prudent owner or a prudent administrator would make. I told him there was some Louisiana case law that stated that a usufructuary is bound to take the same care of the property as if it were his own. And I told him, that if the investments were sound, and there was a general downturn in the markets, that he may be ok due to the fact that Louisiana courts have stated that a prudent administrator is not responsible for the decline of rental income attributed to the general decline of the economy.

We also discussed the fact that he was inheriting the usufruct of nonconsumables. And upon their sale, we discussed the consequences to him and his estate when nonconsumables (such as stocks and bonds) are converted to a consumable (cash).

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

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

Prohibited Substitution in Louisiana Last Will is Null

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can Person With Usufruct Make Improvements and Alterations to Property?

This explains whether someone who has the Louisiana usufruct has the right to make improvements or alterations to property.

Let's say, for example, that Husband and Wife entered into marriage later in life as a blended family. They each have their own kids. They decide to move into Wife's home. Wife doesn't want husband kicked out of her home (by her kids) if she dies before him. So she writes a Will and leave Husband the lifetime usufruct of the home. Wife later dies. Succession gets completed. Husband has usufruct, and is living in, the home. Wife's children are the naked owners.

Now Husband wants to make some improvements to the home (mancave, outdoor kitchen, hot tub, etc.). Can he do it? 

Louisiana law says that, in this instance, Husband can make improvements and alterations AT HIS COST AND WITH THE WRITTEN CONSENT OF THE NAKED OWNER. If the naked owners don't give consent, Husband may, AFTER NOTICE TO THE NAKED OWNERS AND WITH APPROVAL OF THE COURT, MAKE AT HIS COST THOSE IMPROVEMENTS AND ALTERATIONS THAT A PRUDENT ADMINISTRATOR WOULD MAKE.

In most cases, parties in these situations don't think to seek out what the rules are and to see if they are in compliance with the rules. They tend to just do what they want because they thing they can. Then, the naked owners start to scream at the usufructuary, and all hell breaks loose.

Better, in these cases, to ask first for permission, rather than to act first and ask for forgiveness 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

Wife Inherits Usufruct. What are Usufructuary Rights? Obligations To Naked Owners?

There's lots of confusion out there in the great state of Louisiana about there about the rights and obligations of someone who owns the usufruct. This should start to clear things up.

It is common, when a married person dies, whether they had a last will and testament or not, for their surviving spouse to inherit the usufruct. People try to guess what everyone's rights are without realizing there is specific Louisiana law which dictates the rights and obligations of the usufructuary.

First, we must determine whether an asset is a consumable thing or a nonconsumable thing. Then we can determine the usufructuary's rights.

Let's say, for example, that Husband died without a last will and testament. On the date that Husband died, Husband and Wife owned community property. They owned $400,000 in their bank accounts, and they owned 1,000 shares of stock in ABC Corporation.

Money is a consumable thing because it cannot be used without being expended or consumed. The share of stock are a nonconsumable thing because they may be enjoyed without alteration of their substance.

When Wife inherited the usufruct of $200,000 of money (a consumable thing), Wife became the owner of it and could consume it as she sees fit. But when she dies or remarries, she owes the naked owners $200,000, regardless of what happened to the money after she received it.

When Wife inherited the usufruct of 500 shares of stock of ABC Corporation (a nonconsumable thing), she gets to keep the dividends that the shares produce, but when she dies or remarries, whichever occurs first (the termination of Wife's usufruct), she must deliver the 500 shares to the naked owners, regardless of their appreciation or depreciation. 

And when a nonconsumable is sold, the usufruct attaches to the money that is the proceeds of the sale, and usufruct becomes a usufruct of a consumable.

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

Forced Heirship Forces Usufruct

Louisiana is the only state with the unique forced heirship laws which, essentially, provide that if you die a Louisiana resident, and you have forced heirs, you must leave your forced heirs are pre-determined portion of your estate.

Forced heirs are defined as children who are 23 years of age or younger, or children of any age who are incapable of administering their estate (the actual statutory definition is more complex).

If, at your death, you have one forced heir, then you must leave that one forced heir 1/4 of your estate. If you leave two or more forced heirs, you must leave them at least half of your estate. Most retirement accounts and life insurance is not included in this calculation.

The practical effect of the forced heirship laws is that that a married person, if they have forced heirs, cannot leave their entire estate to their spouse. Many married people describe that they want "Simple, I Love You" wills which leave everything to the surviving spouse. But this violates Louisiana's forced heirship laws.

And most married parents don't want assets to go directly to the children when the first spouse dies. Most couples feel that when one spouse dies, the assets should be available to the surviving spouse. 

So, if you have forced heirs and you want to leave your estate to your spouse, you have limitations. Many people leave their surviving spouse the usufruct of their estate, and they name their children or forced heirs as the naked owners. Others leave their estates to a trust which makes assets available to the spouse, but when the spouse later dies, trust assets revert back to the children or principal beneficiaries. These vehicles satisfy the forced heirship provisions. In general you can satisfy the forced heirship laws by providing for your forced heirs, but really they don't get their inheritance until after you AND your spouse pass away.

The result of this is that parents, for at least 23 years, cannot have a legal estate planning program where they leave everything they own to their surviving spouse. They must create an estate planning program that complies with the Louisiana forced heirship rules.

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

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

Children Donate Naked Ownership Interest Back To Surviving Parent

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

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

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

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

How Traditional, Simple Louisiana Estate Planning Can Wipe Out The Savings

This is my attempt to educate a few Louisiana folks on the front end about estate planning so they don't get bit on the back end.

Traditional estate just doesn't always work like it used to. It's typical and traditional for married couples, at some point, to go see a lawyer about getting a Will done. Then, the attorney prepares a Will that, typically, either leaves OWNERSHIP or USUFRUCT to the surviving spouse. In fact, most couples don't know what they did - they just know they wrote a Will.

Well, one of the biggest drains of an estate while you are alive can be long term care expenses. I hope that this enables you to realize that how you arrange your estate planning legal documentation can have a profound impact on what you leave your family and what you leave what some people call the Evil Empire of the State of Louisiana.

Let's take an example. Let's say that Dad died. Dad had saved over the years enough to accumulate some CDs. His CDs, when he died, totaled $500,000 in value. And let's say Dad's traditional Will either left Mom ownership or usufruct of the $500,000.

Now that Dad died, Mom cannot live alone. She needs around the clock care. So Mom goes into the nursing home. The children think that the $500,000 is PROTECTED, because Dad left it to the kids but left Mom only the usufruct. But of course they are all quickly informed that Mom must spend the entire $500,000 on her nursing home care before Mom would qualify for Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid. 

Of course this is when Mom and all the kids say, "Well we did not know!" Or they say, "Nobody told us....". Or they say, ""This doesn't seem fair when 3 out of 4 people in the nursing home are on Medicaid..." Or, "Surely there is something we can do at the last minute here..." Or, "Can't we just hide the money in a hole in the back yard?" Or, "Daddy just wanted to take care of Momma..."

Here's the key: Plan for these situations in advance. What Dad and Mom are getting legal affairs in order, it makes perfect sense to have an intelligent discussion about how they should leave things to each other and the family in a way that the family does not lose it to long term care expenses, taxes, or other government intrusions.

Hopefully this little piece of education can help some unknowing families get ahead of the game and protect what they've worked for. In the past, only the wealthy could afford to pay lawyers and other professionals to get the best estate protection advice. Now, with the advent of youtube and other free social media networks, anyone who wants to education themselves can find out just about anything on the internet and then seek out the right help to protect themselves and their family.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

If You Have Usufruct, You Have Debt

This post should help you understand the full consequences of either leaving someone the Louisiana usufruct of an estate, or inheriting the usufruct of an estate.

Here's an example. Dad dies leaving a Last Will which left the usufruct of his estate to Mom. Together, Mom and Dad had about $1 million in the bank (checking, savings, and a number of CDs). About a year later, after Dad's Succession was complete, all of these bank accounts were put in Mom's name only - which the usufructuary is permitted to do. Family circumstances warranted that Mom change her Will. Mom died a couple of years after that.

All of Mom's heirs assumed that since all of the money was in Mom's name, and that Mom left a Last Will and Testament, that all of the money would go to them. But there were dead wrong - pun intended.

Since Dad left Mom the usufruct of his estate, Mom (or Mom's estate) owed a debt to Dad's heirs (also called a usufructuary accounting due to the naked owners). Dad had left Mom the usufruct of about $500,000. That "usufructuary debt to Dad's naked owners" needed to be satisfied first before any of Mom's heirs inherit a penny.

And if Mom had spent some of the money and only had enough at her death to satisfy the usufructuary debt, then Mom's heirs would not inherit - even though she had a very clear Will leaving her money to her heirs.

While usufruct can be appropriate in some circumstances, you and your spouse need to be aware - on the front end - about what might happen on the back end. While usufruct might be the way to go, there are a number of other alternative ways you can leave your estate to your loved ones. To start a discussion, call our office at 866-491-3884.

Go TIgers!

Louisiana Usufruct and Long Term Care (Nursing Home) Medicaid

We get lots of questions about whether people who own the Louisiana usufruct can qualify for Louisiana Long Term Care Medicaid benefits.

So I'm sharing information today with you from the Louisiana Medicaid Eligibility Manual regarding usufruct and Medicaid.

When someone who owns a usufruct is in a nursing home and attempting to qualify for Medicaid, the first thing you want to determine is whether their usufruct is over a consumable or a nonconsumable. 

If the person owns a usufruct of a consumable, such as money, certificates of deposit, promissory notes, bank accounts, etc., then the entire amount of the asset's value is a Countable Resource. So, if Dad died leaving Mom the usufruct of a bank account that had $200,000 in it when Dad died, then the entire amount is considered a resource of Mom. Some people mistakenly believe that since there are naked owners (typically, the children), that Mom does not have to consume these assets in the nursing home.

If the usufructuary owns the usufruct of a nonconsumable item, such as land, houses, shares of stock, etc., then the value of the usufructuary's usufruct must be determined by a Medicaid table that factors in the usufructuary's age. So, for example, if Dad died and left Mom the usufruct of a piece of land worth $100,000, and Mom is 80 at the time of her Medicaid application, then the table indicates that Mom's usufruct is worth 43.659% of the asset. So, by Mom owning the usufruct of a piece of land worth $100,000, she has a Countable Resource valued at $43,659. This is a problem for Mom. Perhaps she will need to sell her usufruct for this amount and then consume all of that money before successfully qualifying for Medicaid.

The problem here is that there is little that can be done at the last minute to solve this problem. But there's lots that can be done if you act early (ideally, at least five years before entering the nursing home. 

Find this helpful, go LIke our law firm's facebook page at Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, and discover lots more.

Two Reasons Louisiana Residents Don't Like the Louisiana Usufruct

The Louisiana Usufruct is a form of ownership that no other state has. It is designed to make assets available to another (perhaps a surviving spouse) while preserving the rights of the naked owners (typically, the children.

But many families don't like the application of the Louisiana usufruct laws. Here are a couple of reasons why:

(1) The Surviving Spouse's Heirs May Get Nothing. Let's say Husband and Wife each have two children from prior marriages. They have $1,000,000. Husband dies leaving Wife the lifetime usufruct of his estate. So, the Wife continues to own $500,000, and Wife inherits the usufruct of Husband's $500,000. Wife has a Will leaving her entire estate to her two children.

After Husband dies, Wife spends $500,000 on her care and her basic living needs. Here comes the tricky part. When Wife dies with only $500,000 remaining in her name, the Husband's children come out of the woodwork and proclaim, "We get all of the assets in Wife's estate because her estate owes us $500,000.

So, Husband's children get everything and Wife's children get nothing. This is not what they intended by leaving each other usufruct. They did not intend for the heirs of the surviving spouse to be excluded.

(2) Another problem that comes up often in any usufruct situation (even in traditional families) is that when one spouse leaves the usufruct of the home to the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse cannot sell the home without the written permission of the heirs of the first spouse to die. This often causes friction between the heirs of the first spouse to die, and the surviving spouse.

Both of these circumstances can be solved but you need to plan ahead to solve these problems. Call 866-491-3884 from anywhere in the State of Louisiana to perhaps start a conversation about how your estate legal program can protect yourself, your spouse (if married) and your heirs the right way - and you get it right the first time!