ESTATE PLANNING AND SUCCESSIONS
Do you need estate planning? The state of Louisiana has a default estate plan for all of us, but it’s not ideal for most. Seale & Ross has extensive experience representing clients in all aspects of estate law.
Without a will providing otherwise, separate property in Louisiana devolves to the children. Community property devolves to the children as naked owners and the surviving spouse as usufructuary. The surviving spouse’s usufruct terminates upon the earlier of death or remarriage, and the naked owners may demand she or he provide security that the property subject to the usufruct will still be there when the surviving spouse dies. The surviving spouse cannot sell or otherwise alienate the property subject to the usufruct without the permission of the naked owners. As you may surmise, this “plan,” particularly for modern blended families, is a recipe for a train wreck.
Estate planning at its core is the arrangement of one’s affairs using various legal tools appropriate for the circumstances. More precisely, estate planning is the practice of law dealing with the creation, protection, and disposition of assets during life, upon death, and after death. It includes providing advice about donations, wills, trusts, life insurance, business agreements, income and transfer taxes, and qualified and non-qualified retirement plans. It also includes issues affecting the elderly and disabled such as Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, Veterans benefits, Special Needs Trusts, housing and other governmental benefits. Seale & Ross provides a full range of estate law planning services, from simple to the complex, for traditional as well as non-traditional families.
We help you plan for the unknown. A power of attorney or comprehensive revocable or living trust can provide for an agent to step in should you become unable to manage your affairs. Powers granted to the agent can be limited or they may be general, covering all matters. Together with a medical power of attorney, the general power will provide for continuity of affairs should you become unable to manage.
We help you plan for the known. We have many tools in our toolbox, but the place to start is with a solid Last Will and Testament. The will provides for disposition of your assets upon death and designates who will be in charge of carrying out your will directives. It may also establish one or more trusts to hold the inheritance of a legatee who is a minor child or otherwise unable to manage financial affairs responsibly. For some clients, a revocable or living trust is a better fit for their needs, as a will substitute, especially when also used as a power of attorney substitute or for the purpose of avoiding the probate process. Both wills and trusts are used in planning for business generational transfers, vitally important for business owners. And these are just the basics.
We help you plan for taxes. Louisiana’s inheritance tax was repealed, but the federal transfer or estate tax is still with us. A Last Will and Testament (or properly-drafted revocable or living trust) is the only mechanism by which you can defer the estate tax by making use of the marital deduction. We have many more tools in the toolbox here, as well, that can be employed depending on the client’s circumstances.
As a complement to our estate law planning practice, Seale & Ross has extensive experience representing clients in all manner of succession and probate matters, from small estates concluded by affidavit to complex succession administration and litigation.