New Orleans Estate Planning Attorneys

Evaluating and understanding your options when setting up an estate plan can be quite overwhelming. It can be helpful to hire an experienced New Orleans Estate Planning Attorney, who can help you revise or create a new comprehensive estate plan.

Estate Attorneys

RECOGNITION

Your estate includes real estate, bank accounts, stocks, life insurance policies as well as personal property such as automobiles, jewelry, and artwork.

An estate plan can protect your loved ones from precarious financial situations and unnecessary quarrels among beneficiaries after your death. If there is no will at the time of your death, Louisiana’s intestacy laws will decide what happens to your property.

Having a will and other estate documents can help your beneficiaries to avoid a probate court mess. To get an overview of the different aspects you will need to consider when setting up an estate plan, see the checklist below.

Estate Plan Checklist

  • Identify family members and/or loved ones as beneficiaries.
  • Draft and sign a will.
  • Set up a living trust (particularly important for property and assets of significant value).
  • Create Health Care directives (including living will to address issues such as life-prolonging medical care as well as power of attorney for Health Care).
  • Draft and sign Financial Power of Attorney and name an agent.
  • Appoint an executor for your children’s property.
  • Name beneficiary for bank account, life insurance and retirement plan.
  • Be informed about estate and gift taxes.
  • If you own any firearms, inform yourself about the legal ramifications of transferal of ownership.
  • Set up a payable-on-death account for your funeral.
  • Make funeral arrangements according to your personal wishes.
  • Make final decisions about organ/body donation & cremation/burial.
  • Consider modern additions such as online passwords and debit card PIN.
  • Write up a succession or buyout agreement for your business.
  • Grant an executor access to important documents, such as trusts, deeds, banking information, retirement plans, etc.
  • Keep your estate plan private in order to avoid conflicts.

Powers of Attorney and Advanced Directives

If a loved one falls critically ill, it can be very hard for the relatives to make the right decision about medical care. Therefore, estate administration lawyers recommend adding medical directives and issuing a power of attorney as part of your estate plan. Even if you don’t have a serious health condition today, circumstance may change quicker than you have time to act.

What Are Medical Directives?

Medical directives state the patient’s wishes regarding medical treatments and interventions, including any life-prolonging actions. It enables the designated agent to make medical decisions according to the patient’s wishes.

Generally, close relatives are not chosen as agents for medical directives because the main objective of this document is to take the burden off loved ones’ shoulders.

What is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney grants an agent authority to handle financial and other business matters on behalf of a person who is incapacitated, or unable to act or make decisions for him or herself.

Power of attorney can be granted to more than one person. In that case, it has to be specified whether the agents are to act jointly or independently of each other. However, because this can cause conflicts between the agents, estate planning attorneys advise a single appointment. A successor may also be named in the event of the agent’s death or incapacity. A representative may also choose to surrender his authority.

A power of attorney can be restricted to one specific type of transaction. The duration of a power of attorney can be limited; a start and end date can be specified. Unlimited powers of attorney are considered “durable.”

Power of attorney regarding real estate may require registration with the state court. While you are still capable of making your own decisions, you are permitted to revoke any powers of attorney that you have granted.

In the absence of a power of attorney, a court order is needed to grant someone permission to act on your behalf. In this case, the court may also appoint a guardian, who is bound by fiduciary duty to act in your best interest.

Medical directives and powers of attorney are important elements of an overall estate plan that a Louisiana estate lawyer can help you with.

Trusts

A trust serves as a contract between trustees and beneficiaries. When setting up a trust, the grantor (owner of the property) transfers a legal title to the trustee, who in turn enters into a fiduciary relationship with the beneficiary. The trustee is charged with the responsibility to act in the best interest of the beneficiary.

Common Purposes of a Trust

  • Minor Children as Heirs or Beneficiaries of an Estate
  • Employee Pension and Retirement Plans
  • Asset Protection in the Event of Bankruptcy
  • Avoidance of Estate Taxes
  • Co-ownership of Property

The grantor himself may act as trustee during his lifetime, thus keeping ownership of his property. He may even name himself as one of the beneficiary of the trust. If the grantor himself is the trustee, he can appoint a successor, who will take over for him when he dies or becomes incapacitated.

How Trusts Work

Trustees have legal power over the property that’s placed in a trust, while the beneficiaries are granted beneficial ownership of it. A lot of times, trustees receive compensation for performing this task. Various trustees can be responsible for a trust that distributes the property between multiple beneficiaries.

The trust agreement states the rights and duties of the trustee as well as the beneficiaries of the trust, which may consist of real or personal property, shares, or cash. The beneficiary can be an individual, a corporation, a non-profit organization, or any other entity.

If the trustee disregards the trust agreement, he may be removed and the beneficiary is entitled to sue him for breach of fiduciary duty. All revenue incurred from the property goes to the beneficiary.

Different Types of Trusts

There are two different types of trusts, living (inter vivos) trusts and testamentary trusts. No property will be transferred into a testamentary trust before the grantor’s death. He will specify the beneficiaries as well as the method of receipt of property in his will. Payments can be spread over a period of time or made out as a one-time gift.

A living trust becomes effective while the grantor is still alive, but it may be continued after his death. This is advantageous because it may help beneficiaries avoid the probate process. If a person transfers all of his assets into a trust, he will be left without assets at the time his death, which makes probate unnecessary.

A living trust can be revocable or irrevocable. A revocable trust oftentimes becomes irrevocable at the time of the grantor’s death. Revocable trusts are generally more popular. In the event that not all assets have been transferred into a trust at the grantor’s death, a living trust can be accompanied by a “pour-over” will, which states that all remaining assets will be transferred to the trustee.

The most common irrevocable trust is the Irrevocable Life Insurance Trust. It will transfer all assets of the grantor directly to the next generation in order to avoid any estate taxes that may occur.

Get help from protecting your interests, and those of your loved ones, from the experienced New Orleans estate lawyers at Barrios, Kingsdorf & Casteix, L.L.P. Call today to schedule a consultation.