Having a Will is one way to guide your loved ones through the sometimes daunting process of what to do after you die. Without a Will that outlines your wishes, your family may be confused about how to divide your assets which may result in hurt feelings among them.
The Law Offices of Regina Wedig, LLC has helped people in the greater New Orleans area and the North Shore Parishes of Tangipahoa, St. Helena and St. Tammany design an estate plan that makes sense of the complex laws affecting the transfer of the family home, land and assets from one generation to the next. If you are a young person with small children, you may want to leave your assets in a trust to protect and preserve those assets until your children are ready to better use those assets. Others may have grown children and grandchildren to whom they want to leave specific property or assets. To accomplish these goals, you must have a properly written and executed Will.
I can explain to you the many ways to pass on your property to meet the needs of your children, relatives, special charities or other beneficiaries. Please call my office to schedule an appointment to discuss these issues with me.
Why Should I Have A Will?
You do not have to have a Will, however, if you do not have a Will, Louisiana state law controls how your assets will be distributed at the time of your death. If you are married, all of your assets, whether part of the community with your surviving spouse or your separate property, go to your children, immediately, regardless of their age. Your surviving spouse is granted a usufruct over the community property, not your separate property. Of course, if your children are minors, control of the assets will be given to the surviving parent until they are 18, who must provide an accounting for use of those assets. And the complications increase if you have been married more than once or have children from other relationships, just to name a few of the most common issues. State law decides who will have custody of your children if they are minors when you die. State law decides who will be responsible for disbursing your assets and whether that person will receive a portion of your estate for doing so.
If you are single and have no children, state law gives your assets to your surviving siblings, subject to a usufruct in favor of your parents. The complications increase if your parents do not survive you and you have no siblings.
Ask questions during the estate planning stage to become familiar with the probate process. Include trusted family members and financial advisors in the planning stage. With information, the process of writing a Will and the later succession procedures will not be as daunting.
Here are a few other reasons you should have a Will:
Are There Other Documents That I Should Consider Part Of My Estate Plan?
All of these steps must be taken while you are able to make decisions. Age increases the risk of mental illness, dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other medical conditions, which hamper your ability to make decisions and your ability to execute legal documents. Advance planning gives you control over these very important decisions. You should consider having an estate plan regardless of your age, wealth or family situation. Most of the recommended documents are tailored for your specific needs and are not always complex, expensive or difficult to understand and use.
When I Die, Does My Succession Have To Be Opened Immediately?
Louisiana law requires a succession to be opened as soon as practicable, regardless of whether you have a Will. Procrastination usually adds to the complexity of handling your estate. Documents can be lost; assets can be mishandled; valuation of assets may become difficult over time; the question of ownership and possession becomes muddled; your heirs or legatees may die, creating additional issues of ownership. The more generations, often spread out over several states, which are involved only increases logistics of notice and obtaining approvals, not to mention the increased likelihood of disagreement.
Will my spouse and children have to pay taxes on my assets when I die?
Louisiana does not have an inheritance tax and Federal estate taxes are applied only to large estates.
I have heard it is expensive and time consuming to go through probate. Is that true?
The cost of probating a Will and handling a simple succession is usually very reasonable and the time between opening and closing of the succession is usually only a few months. Of course, each situation is unique and different legal procedures are available to address those concerns, ranging from a Small Succession Affidavit to a complex administration.