Estate Planning, Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney
Estate planning is the planning for the circumstances surrounding the end of one’s life. Some people have the superstition that planning for death invites an early death. However, lack of such planning can be detrimental to the ones we love most.
Absent a will, state law decides how one’s assets are distributed upon death – often contrary to what the deceased person would want. For many people a will is a simple matter. In a will, the “testator” declares who he wants to inherit his property, to handle his estate, and to raise children who are not yet grown. We meet with our clients to discuss the desired disposition of their estates and to answer their questions, including explaining such terms such as usufruct, naked ownership and forced heirship – terms unique in the United States to Louisiana. We also can prepare a power of attorney (known in Louisiana as a “mandate“) so the person you want in charge of your affairs can handle them if you are unable to do so.
If your or your family’s situation makes a trust advisable, the Derbes Law Firm handles such work. A trust may be advisable for minor children, for children or other family members with substance abuse or gambling issues, for handicapped persons, for philanthropic purposes, or because of the federal estate tax. A trust can be created by a will (testamentary trust) or it can be created while the person funding the trust is alive (inter vivos trust).
Successions and Probate
In Louisiana, the probate process is known as a “succession.” If there is no will, the succession is “intestate” and those who inherit are known as “heirs.” A succession with a will is “testate” and those who inherit are known as “legatees.” If a will exists, it is “probated,’ which is simply a Latin word for proved. The succession is the process by which the decedent’s estate – the property, rights, and obligations he leaves at his death – is transferred to his heirs or legatees.
Uncontested successions in Louisiana are generally not very expensive, but are necessary or advisable to transfer many assets to the new owners, i.e. the heirs or those who get legacies under a will. Those considering a revocable living trust should note that Louisiana’s succession process is often less expensive that the process of creating a revocable living trust and moving assets into that trust.
Too often disagreements occur regarding a decedent’s assets. The Derbes Law Firm regularly represents executors, administrators, trustees, heirs, creditors and legatees in such matters. We endeavor to reach out of court settlements during such painful fights, but will vigorously defend our client’s rights in litigation when it is advisable.
Occasionally the lack of a power of attorney or other reason results in an interdiction proceeding. Known as “guardianship” or “conservatorship” in other states, the interdiction process involves a judicial determination that the proposed interdict is incapable of handling his own affairs, and the appointment of someone to handle his affairs for him. The Derbes Law Firm will represent petitioners or persons in need of a defense against an interdiction proceeding.