In Louisiana, "estate planning" broadly refers to the process through which someone determines what is to be done with their assets after death.
The first step in any estate plan is to figure out what you actually want to be done with your assets after your death. This is a very personal decision, and you should discuss it with your family, and others who might have a direct interest in your decisions. As for actually implementing your goals, you should probably speak with a legal and/or financial professional to figure out the best way to accomplish these objectives.
In addition to decisions regarding the disposition of your property, you should decide how you want to spend your final days. For instance, many people have a strong preference about whether and to what extent they'd like to be kept alive by artificial means. Whatever your choice on this matter is, you should make it clear to the people who will be positioned to make such decisions for you, if you are unable.
A qualified estate planner in Louisiana may also help you maximize the percentage of your assets that go to your chosen beneficiaries, by minimizing the impact of taxes and court fees. Furthermore, preventing a will or other estate plan from being litigated in court will save your survivors an incalculable amount of time, money, and energy - and the better an estate plan is, the lower its chances of ending up in court.
Common Elements of Estates in Louisiana
Estate plans in Louisiana almost always have these elements:
Will: If you've determined who you want to leave your property and money to after you die, you should make these wishes official, by writing a will. When writing a will, it's always a good idea to have the assistance of an attorney, since many problems can come up which might make the will much more challenging to implement, or they might even void it entirely. Common problems include ambiguities in the terms of the will (a term which is not precisely written, so it can be interpreted differently by reasonable people), as well as failure to follow the obligated formalities.
Power of Attorney: Granting someone "power of attorney" gives them the right to make your decisions for you if it becomes impossible for you to do so. This incapacity can arise due to illness, injury, or mental incapacity.
Funeral Arrangements: If you have any choice whatsoever on how your mortal remains should be handled, you should make it clear to your family, in writing. You should also make the necessary arrangements with a funeral home, in advance. If possible, you should try to pay in advance for your funeral expenses, to save your survivors the further burden of planning and paying for a funeral. These arrangements should be laid out somewhere other than in your will, because a will usually isn't read for days or weeks after the testator's death, by which point it is usually too late.
Do I Need a Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney?
Estate planning is very important (if you care about what happens to your family after your death), and can involve some pretty difficult decisions. It should be clear, then, that a reputable Louisiana estate planning attorney will likely be worth the cost, because they can give your wishes the best possible chance of taking effect.
Interesting Facts About Louisiana
Louisiana became a U.S. state in 1812. The territory was obtained from France through the Louisiana Purchase, for a total worth of $15 million at the time. The state has a cultural-linguistic atmosphere unlike any other area in the U.S., due to the French, Spanish, Native American, African, and Caribbean influences.
Much of Louisiana's laws and government structure are unique among U.S. states. For example, Louisiana is the only state to have government units called "parishes". These are equivalent to counties in other states. Another feature of Louisiana governance is its extensive system of civil law based on Spanish and French systems. The majority of countries use some form of civil law, which is based mainly on codified statutes. Most of American law is common law- that is, derived from judge-made court decisions.
Louisiana's court system is structurally similar to most states, with a Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, and District Courts. However, because of the civil law influence, the Court of Appeals tends to have much broader discretion when reviewing trials. Also, the Louisiana state Constitution does not directly provide for the right to a jury trial for civil cases. The distribution of damages is also different in Louisiana.
Although Louisiana law is so distinct, lawyers in Louisiana understand how to interpret the state's legal code. Louisiana lawyers carefully review state laws when assisting clients. Depending on your legal dispute or issue, it may be necessary to obtain the expertise of an attorney in Louisiana.