Estate planning is not just for those with vast wealth or complicated family situations. Having a will, advance directive, power of attorney, and other documents in place can give anyone peace of mind, and it can ease the burden on your loved ones during a difficult time. Because estate planning laws vary by state, it's important to know what to expect in your area. Here are some guidelines for estate planning in Louisiana.
What Types of Things Are Included in a Will?
A will is the component that most people think of when talking about estate planning. It's the official legally-binding document that outlines how you want your estate divided and settled after your death. It can include details about how you want your property distributed and to whom you want it given. You might also outline provisions for minor children and other dependents. You should designate someone to act as executor in your will, the person in charge of administrative tasks associated with settling your estate. This person doesn't have to be a lawyer or a legal professional, but many people choose such a candidate to ensure that their executor is someone who is familiar with estate law.
Can You Bypass Probate in Louisiana?
The process by which property transfers from a decedent to an heir is called probate. It can be complex, costly, and time-consuming. A key objective for many people in estate planning is to try to minimize its hassles or avoid probate entirely. Fortunately for Louisiana residents, not all property must go through probate to be passed to heirs. Some property can pass to beneficiaries without probate, including:
- Retirement accounts, annuities, life insurance and other accounts with a designated beneficiary
- Property that is held in a trust
- Property that is jointly owned
An estate planning lawyer can help you avoid the pitfalls of probate and keep your plan updated over the years to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.
What Is Financial Power of Attorney?
Estate planning does not concentrate solely on what happens to your assets after your death. This is also a good time to consider contingency plans in the event you become incapacitated and need someone else to make important decisions on your behalf. Financial power of attorney allows you to name an agent to deal with your money matters. You can decide the extent to which you want your agent to have access to accounts, as well as under what circumstances the power of attorney will apply.
How Can You Prepare for End-of-Life Care?
A medical power of attorney is similar to a financial power of attorney, but the decisions your agent would be making on your behalf are limited to your health care. If you feel very strongly about matters such as life support, you may want to document your wishes in a living will. Both power of attorney and a living will can ease the burden on your loved ones should you become gravely ill or injured.
What Else Can You Include?
A comprehensive estate plan can include other components as well.
- Pre-arrangements for your funeral or burial
- Provisions for pets
- Life insurance
Estate planning professionals can even help you devise a strategy to minimize taxes, court costs, and other fees, so you can maximize the value of your estate.
How Can a Louisiana Estate Planning Lawyer Help?
Estate planning is subject to both federal and state laws, and new legislation brings changes every day. Even minor missteps could cause big complications down the road. A Louisiana estate planning lawyer can ensure you cover all your bases so you can rest assured that your affairs are in good order.