Will Plan

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Louisiana Forced Heirship Law: Four Key Concepts

Louisiana is the only state that has these unique forced heirship laws. Basically, the law provides that certain children must be left an inheritance. Let's take a look at some of these provisions.

Definition. There are, in general, two definitions of a forced heir. A forced heir is a child who, at the time of your death, is 23 years of age or younger. A forced heir is also defined as a child of any age who, because of mental incapacity or physical infirmity, are permanently incapable of taking care of their persons or administering their estates at the time of your death. Note that I'm generalizing here, and there are exceptions and further clarifications in the law. So, make sure you see an estate planning attorney if these circumstances apply to you.

Amount a Forced Heir is entitled to. Again, exceptions apply here. But generally, if you have one forced heir, that forced heir is entitled to 1/4 of your estate. If you leave behind two or more forced heirs, they must, collectively, share half of your estate. Life insurance, 401(k) accounts, and IRAs are not counted for purposes of this calculation.

Burdening the Legitime. You can arrange your estate, if you have one or more forced heirs, so they do not get their forced portion until both you and your spouse die. You can leave an income interest in trust for your spouse, or you can leave your spouse usufruct of the forced portion. Again, exceptions apply so work with an estate planning attorney.

Disinherison. Even if you leave a forced heir, you can disinherit them (leave them nothing) of they fit under one of the eight just causes for disinherison. The one used most often is when a child, after reaching age 18 and knowing how to contact the parent, has failed to communicate with the parent without just cause for a period of two years, unless the child was on active duty in any of the military forces of the United States at the time.

My final warning about forced heirship is that our rules can be tricky. There is much more to it than what was described here. And since it only applies in Louisiana, none of the national articles or publications will help you.

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.

Starting a Louisiana Succession: Info To Gather

There is certain information that needs to be collected prior to starting a Louisiana Succession judicial proceeding. Getting off on the right start with the right information can enable the attorney and the family to design, agree on, and implement a plan to be as efficient as possible.

It typically starts with determining whether a Last Will and Testament exists. Many surviving family members have come to my office to discuss completing a Succession - but they neglect to bring the Will.

If a Will exists, we want to look closely at who the executor is. Is the executor an independent executor? Who are the heirs (also known in Louisiana as "legatees")? Are all of the people named n the Will still alive? Answers to all of the questions will help determine who the participants are in the Succession. You need to include all of the participants early on because their cooperation is necessary to conclude various Succession matters.

In addition, you'll want to gather all of the asset information. Make sure you get everything - all of the legal descriptions of real estate that the deceased had an ownership interest in, all of the bank accounts and investment accounts, any small business interests like limited liability companies, corporations or partnerships, any, vehicle titles, and anything else titled in the name of the deceased, or that the deceased had a community or separate property ownership interest in. Failing to gather all of the necessary asset and debt information on the front end may lead to frustration on the back end when you have to either start over or continue going back to court to petition a judge to amend the Succession court orders - this all takes additional time and money.

Once you have a good understanding of the provisions of the Will, the participants in the Succession, and all of the assets are involved, you and your attorney(s) should be able to devise a plan to complete all matters related to the Succession - from start to finish.

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 To Transfer Vehicle After Louisiana Owner Dies

Many people pass away in Louisiana each year with vehicles titled in their name. Often, surviving heirs want to transfer the title out of the name of the deceased so that the vehicle can be sold, traded in, or driven and insured.

One way to make sure that a vehicle gets transferred to the rightful owner is for all of the heirs to go through the full-blown Louisiana judicial Succession proceeding. When this takes place, the family hires one or more attorneys, Succession pleadings are prepared, detailed lists of assets and debts are submitted to the court, and a judge signs various court orders ordering that assets, including vehicles, be transferred to the right people. Most people feel like this is a hassle - because it is.

However, the Louisiana Department of Public Safety & Corrections, Office of Motor Vehicles, has an Affidavit procedure that surviving spouses and heirs can take advantage of to transfer a vehicle after a vehicle owner dies.

The Affidavit of Heirship requires that a copy of the Death Certificate or a Published Obituary be attached to the Affidavit. It also must be indicated whether the vehicle owner died with no Will (intestate) or with a Last Will (testate).  If the person died testate, a copy of the Will must be attached (or a notarized summary statement of Will contents). You must also attach the title or check off that the title cannot be located.

For example, let's say Dad had a Will leaving any vehicles he owned to Mom. Mom must sign the affidavit and have her signature notarized. In addition, Dad's children must all sign the Affidavit and have their signatures notarized. The rationale is that since Dad's Will is not going through the courts to be probated, then the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles want Dad's children to "sign off" on the transfer of title to Mom. If Mom later wants to donate the vehicle to someone else, she can then execute an Act of Donation to the ultimate recipient.

Even though in most cases, the full blown Succession judicial proceeding will be necessary when a vehicle owner dies because they will also own a home, other real estate, investments, or other Succession assets in their name, this procedure can simplify things for families when they are quickly trying to transfer a vehicle after the owner dies.

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