Testaments and trusts are two important legal documents you can create to protect your assets and final wishes upon your death. (In Louisiana, the word “testament” is the proper word for what most people call a “will.”) Thinking about the inevitable is never easy. Having the same discussion with your spouse or adult children is even more difficult. However, planning for the future is a great way to reduce the stress your family will go through once you are gone.
The compassionate and friendly team at South Louisiana Elder Law can answer all of your questions and help you create an estate plan that meets your needs. Testaments and trusts should not be overlooked, especially when these documents help protect your assets, finances, property, and beneficiaries.
The Louisiana Civil Code uses the word “testament” instead of the more common term “will” and has a chapter that deals with “testaments” as part of the general laws governing donations. The Louisiana Civil Code has rules for gifts that take effect while the giver is alive and other rules for gifts that take effect after death. A document that makes gifts that happen after death is called a “testament.” The procedure for probating a testament and carrying out the legacies of the testament is called a “Succession.”
The primary purpose of a testament is to provide a legally enforceable document stating how you want your property distributed at your death. Another purpose of a testament is to state your desires of how you want your affairs to be handled upon your death – such as naming the person who will make sure your property is distributed the way you want it to be distributed and to make sure your debts are paid – or to dispute debts that should be disputed.
Testaments can be used for other purposes in Louisiana. A testament can be used to establish how land will be divided or partitioned among the successor owners. A testament can also be used to appoint the person designated to care for minor children if the parents die before the children reach the age of 18. (The Louisiana Civil Code and the Code of Civil Procedure use the terms “tutors” and “tutorship” for what other states call guardians and guardianship.) If a person with minor children dies without a testament or with a testament that does not cover this issue, then the probate court will determine who becomes the court appointed tutor of those children.
A testament can also be used to make choices and give instructions about how your Succession will be administered and those administrative choices can save money and time. Sometimes a person wants his or her property to be distributed the way the law provides for people who die without a testament and ask a lawyer if there is any reason to execute a testament. The answer to that question is that the administrative choices a person can make in a testament will make it worthwhile to have a testament — even if the testament says your property will be distributed the same way it would be distributed without a testament. The administrative choices that can be made in a testament affect how much it will cost to handle the estate and how quickly the Succession can be completed. Those choices will usually save a family more money than the cost of the testament.
A trust is another important aspect of estate planning. A trust is a legal device that places someone of your choosing in charge of the trust, which is often created to move assets to a third party, such as a child. The trust can outline how and when the recipient is to receive and use the assets left to them. Trusts are very flexible tools for estate planning. They can be revocable or irrevocable. They can hold multiple kinds of assets or just serve a single purpose. There are many different kinds of trusts and many different reasons to use trusts in particular situations.
Experienced elder law attorneys can establish estate plans that combines the use of a testament and a trust. An estate plan can be strong with just one of these legal tools. However, utilizing both of them together can provide added protection for your family, your assets, and your care if you become incapacitated. Each of these tools can be used to address different circumstances and to solve different problems. An experienced and creative attorney can use a combination of tools to provide clients with an estate plan designed to protect them and their family.
When you meet with John Pucheu, he will review your situation and inform you of the best way to use a testament, or a trust, or both, for your estate plan. For some people, a strong estate plan will include a combination of a testament, a trust, and powers of attorney.
The South Louisiana Elder Law team works hard to make sure our clients don’t get confused by legal terms. We take the time to explain complicated and confusing terms in plain language. Click here for a brief list of terms that can sometimes cause confusion.
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It’s never too late to begin estate planning so long as you are still here and have the mental capacity to do so. Don’t wait until the last minute to plan your future! Protect your children, your spouse, and your assets by having an estate plan created with the help of John Pucheu Attorney LLC | South Louisiana Elder Law.
Call our office today to schedule a consultation. Interested in learning more? Also, we provide free reports on estate planning, including, “15 Common Reasons to do Estate Planning” and “The Dangers of Do-It-Yourself Wills and Trusts.”