Shreveport Estate Planning Lawyer
If you’re looking for an estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, Louisiana, Theus Law Offices is here to help. Reaching out to an estate planning lawyer is the first step to being prepared for any emergency, and it can greatly benefit your friends and family. No matter how old you are, or how stable your health is, planning an estate is an important process that ensures your loved ones know how to proceed in the event of your death or incapacitation. An unexpected death can cause a crush of emotions that can cloud judgment and split families and friends apart, so it’s essential to do all you can to prevent the stress, frustration, anger, that can complicate the process of dividing your estate to your beneficiaries.
Death isn’t something many of us like to think about – especially our own. However, it’s important to remember that when you plan your estate, you’re doing it for more than just your peace of mind. Ensuring your estate is properly planned out makes processing your passing much easier for your family and friends, and it is the best way to ensure the right people have rewarded the right assets once you’re gone. Without a properly planned estate, your loved ones will have a much more difficult time dealing with your belongings, investments, and debts.
What Happens Without a Will?
If you fail to draft a will, there may be a bitter battle for any inheritance you leave behind. A will establishes who has durable power of attorney: Who is in charge of ensuring the assets are divided up properly between beneficiaries. A will also establish beneficiaries, and without any instructions to follow after your death, your assets will go right into the hands of the state. This doesn’t mean the state will own everything you’ve worked hard for – but it does mean the state has the authority to distribute your assets however it sees fit.
The state usually appoints a representative to distribute your assets if you have failed to draft a will. While this is typically a spouse or a child, things get complicated if you were ever divorced. If you went through a particularly bitter divorce, but later remarried, who should have the right to choose your beneficiaries and to distribute your assets – your ex, or your most recent spouse? In the eyes of the state, the answer may not be as clear as you’d hope. Fortunately, if you reach out to an estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA, you can make sure this sort of difficulty never surfaces.
You may also be asking what happens if you die without a will because you are aware of the Louisiana Interstate laws. Intestate laws mean that your estate will be handled by shifting the assets and distributing them starting first with children and spouse, before going through extended family. The exact application of Louisiana and to state law depends on two factors, whether the decedent’s property is community property or separate, and whether the decedent had a close enough relationship to the family member.
But this is going to raise new questions such as what is community property or separate property? The answer to this is, Louisiana is one of a handful of states that have a community property system for the ownership of property. Under this particular system, a person’s assets are grouped into categories of either community or separate. If a person is or has been married, you must first analyze which assets are a community in which assets are separate.
If a person dies without a will in Louisiana, their separate property is distributed among their relatives. First, it goes to the decedent’s children or their spouse. If the deceased children are also deceased, the decedents will inherit by roots. This means that the deceased child’s descendants will share equally in the share that their deceased parent should have taken if their parent has died and has no children surviving. So essentially your grandchildren would have a first claim in the effect that you have no living children
If you have no surviving descendants but you have the surviving parents or siblings the property that is considered separate property passes to the decedent’s parents. Should you only have surviving siblings the siblings will share equally in your property.
But just what does this mean for community property in Louisiana? A deceased person’s property which is defined as community property will be distributed to hit their spouse or just send it depending on the family situation. If you have a surviving spouse, the property will pass to the spouse. Essentially community property passes the surviving spouse as something called a life estate. This ends when the surviving spouse dies or remarries, and then it passes to the children. Should you have a surviving spouse but no surviving descendants the community property passes entirely to a surviving spouse.
But now you may be wondering if there are any valuable assets that do not have to go through interstate laws in Louisiana. The answer is yes. If you have transferred your property to a living trust, it will not be affected by succession laws. Life insurance proceeds, funds, and an IRA, 401k, or another type of retirement account, payable on death bank accounts and property that you are owning with somebody else in joint tenancy will not fall under succession law. There are always exceptions to these rules and you should always talk to an estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA, to ensure that you were in your right.
4 Common Estate Planning Mistakes
Estate planning can be confusing and complicated, but avoiding it altogether is the worst mistake of all. Sadly, we don’t live forever, but some of our cash and assets do live on. It’s important to make a detailed procedure about who gets to control these things just in case something happens to us and we are no longer able to. Here are some of the more common mistakes you could make regarding the world of wills and estates.
1. Don’t Wait Too Long
If you’re 30 or older I’m sure someone has suggested to you by now how important it is to write a will, especially if you have kids, real estate, or you own a business. Truth is, an accident can occur at any time which could render you unable to control your property anymore. Speaking with a succession law firm in Shreveport, LA, should be considered an essential step of the process so that your documentation is in compliance with state law.
2. Don’t Choose Poorly
If a procedure in your estate plan requires trusts or annuities, you will need to choose a person who can be the executor of that section of your assets. Choosing an executor who turns out to be unable to fulfil that duty can leave your family in serious trouble. A reputable firm, such as Theus Law Offices, has experience with this sort of procedural law and could offer some guidance. The idea should be to leave your family with wealth, safety and comfort – not headaches and legal fees.
3. Don’t Lose Your Will
Believe it or not, some people go through the trouble of making a will, only to accidentally hide it so their family can’t find the documents or the succession law firm in Shreveport, LA, that might be involved with the procedure after death. The state is required to involve themselves if a will can’t be found. The last thing you want is for the state to get involved. Make sure your loved ones know where the documents are kept which inform how to begin the estate plan.
4. Don’t Misalign Life Insurance
An important reason to choose a succession law firm in Shreveport, LA, is because your life insurance could inadvertently trigger an estate tax. Proceeds of a life insurance policy shouldn’t be taxed as income, but they could be subject to estate taxation if certain conditions exist. A professional who has experience with these nuances of the law, such as Theus Law Offices, should be consulted when planning out a sound estate plan.
How To Choose an Estate Planning Attorney
Your first step in finding a great estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA is to ask for referrals. You may have friends, peers, or family members who recently completed their estate planning, and if you have, ask them about their experiences. However, you should also ask attorneys you trust or have worked with in the past about the law firm or lawyers they trust. Your financial advisor or CPA is also a great resource. Reputable law schools are also good places to start your search. The goal is to choose a law firm, such as Theus Law Offices, that specializes in estate planning and has a reputation for solid legal work in this area.
Search For Specialization Over Geographical Area
Your local area may have few or no estate planning, attorneys. You definitely want a specialist in this area, so don’t be afraid to go outside your community. Each state has different estate laws, and to practice law in a specific state, a lawyer must be licensed in that state. Therefore, you can use any lawyer in your state. You want to find the best legal help for you and your family, and that may require going outside your immediate geographical area.
Don’t Rely on Internet Directories or Bar Association Referral Hotlines
Anyone can join an internet directory if they are willing to pay the fees to become members. These directories tend to be somewhat of a “yellow pages,” where those who pay the most have the largest ads. In addition, the bar association referral hotlines are full of attorneys who pay fees to be listed under specialties. These attorneys are rotated through the association’s referral list, so you don’t know if you are getting the best attorney available. Therefore, these should not be your only referral or research sources.
Look For Attorneys With Malpractice Insurance
When you are looking for an estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA, make sure your prospects have malpractice insurance. These policies suggest that the attorney and firm, e.g., the Theus Law Offices, take responsibility for their work and care about their clients’ needs. Most states do not require this type of insurance.
Search For Those Who Belong to Professional Organizations
You want an estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA who makes the effort to stay up to date on the latest regulations. Organizations, such as the Wealth Counsel, offer meetings and conferences that inform estate attorneys about new laws and other developments within this specialization. They also provide expansive networks where these attorneys can share their knowledge and experience.
What an Estate Planning Lawyer Can Do for You
Dying without a will leaves your friends and family vulnerable in a time of grief. You should allow them to properly mourn, instead of forcing them into a situation in which they’ll have to fight through a lengthy (and damaging) legal battle to get their hands on whatever you’ve left behind. A will is more than just a document saying who gets what: It’s a plan to help your loved ones move on, and it’s important to get in touch with an estate planning lawyer who can make sure your will is as clear as possible.
An estate planning lawyer is a valuable resource when it comes to making sure your family and friends are looked after upon your passing. A qualified attorney can walk you through the most important aspects of your will and can provide information about what should (and will) happen to your estate once you die. It’s never too late to plan ahead: Get in touch with an experienced estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA, and see how Theus Law Offices can help you get prepared.
Shreveport Estate Planning Law Infographic
Eight Mistakes To Avoid When Planning for Your Estate
Failing To Plan Ahead
If you don’t plan with the help of an estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA, you could die intestate, and the succession judge would dictate what happens to your belongings. You want to be the one designating who gets what once you’re gone. Plan ahead to make sure that happens.
Not Talking About Your Final Wishes With Family and Friends
Letting your friends and family know what’s in your estate planning documents ahead of time can help prevent anyone from trying to contest your will. It also lets them know in advance what kind of funeral you want.
Naming Only One Beneficiary
You want at least one contingent beneficiary listed in case your preferred beneficiary passes away before you do. For each of your major assets, you may want two contingent beneficiaries. An estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA can help you enumerate multiple beneficiaries in your will.
Forgetting to Name Power of Attorney or Healthcare Representatives
Estate planning isn’t just about wills and trusts. You also want to have a power of attorney to act on your behalf financially should you become unable to keep track of paying bills. You’ll also need a healthcare power of attorney to make medical decisions for you in the event you’re incapacitated and unable to make those decisions for yourself. A Theus Law Offices attorney can help you set up these powers of attorney.
Forgetting About Your Final Arrangements
Don’t forget your funeral arrangements in your estate planning. Do you want a somber service in church with a private burial for family only? A party celebrating your life? Lay out exactly what you want so your executor can make sure you get the funeral you deserve.
Forgetting About All of Your Digital Assets
You’ve got social media accounts, banking accounts, and more online. A digital asset executor can see that these accounts are handled in the manner you prefer. An estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA may have a checklist of digital assets to consider.
Forgetting About the Charities That Mean the Most to You
If you’re passionate about seeing older kids being adopted or supporting your local Boys and Girls Club, you may want to remember them in your will. Bequests to charities should be set up by a Theus Law Offices estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA.
Not Updating Your Plan Often Enough
Any time there’s a major change in your life, you should update your estate planning documents. This can include the death of a beneficiary, the birth of a grandchild, marriage, or divorce. At a minimum, you should review your estate plans once a year to ensure everything is still up-to-date.
Estate Planning Lawyer Shreveport, LA
It is important to connect with an experienced Shreveport, LA estate planning lawyer both at the start of your estate planning process, and when you need to make adjustments to your estate planning documentation due to significant shifts in your needs, priorities, and/or circumstances. Estate plans are meant to function as “living documents.” This means that the creator of the estate plan in question can alter or update their plan in virtually any way (with the notable exception of some kinds of trusts) as often as is necessary to preserve the integrity and ensure the accuracy of the plan in question.
Shreveport Estate Planning Law FAQs
What Does a Comprehensive Estate Plan Consist Of?
There are several elements that, together, make up the foundation of a comprehensive estate plan. Certainly, if you own high-value assets or have a particularly complex portfolio, your estate plan may be extensive. However, most legally independent adults should have the following updated documents in place at all times, regardless of whether they own substantially valuable property or not:
- A will and/or living trust
- An advance healthcare directive
- Power of attorney designations: Medical, financial, and/or general
- Guardianship designations for minor children, dependent adult children, and/or pets
- Digital estate planning instructions
Additionally, it is generally a good idea to name an estate administrator (and some alternate choices in case your first pick cannot or will not fulfill this role) in your estate plan so that there is no question as to whom you wish to manage your affairs after you’re gone.
When Is The Best Time to Hire an Estate Planning Lawyer?
Many financial advisors recommend the best time to begin estate planning is the moment that you become a legal adult and update it every three to five years after that. For most young adults an estate plan is the last thing on their mind, but it can be an important tool since you have now become solely responsible for your finances, healthcare, and power of attorney. Not to mention, you will begin purchasing assets that are yours and should ensure that everything is accounted for.
However, if you don’t find it necessary to begin estate planning as a young adult there are a few life milestones that should encourage you to reach out to an estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA to help guide you through the process of planning for the future. Those life milestones include:
- Once you start a savings account
- The purchase of a home or other property
- Marriage and remarriage
- Before big traveling trips or if you go out of the country or travel for a long period of time
- First child and after any additional child
- Any additional money or assets that you inherit
- Grandchildren or births in the family
These types of milestones should be when you meet with an estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA at Theus Law Offices to ensure that everything in your estate is accounted for and planned for. These milestones can increase your wealth or impact the way that you would like your assets distributed after death.
Estate planning is one of the most important things that you could end up doing in your life to protect yourself, your family, and the future. The creation of a Will or designation of a guardian for your children can help ensure that your wishes will be followed after death.
An estate planning lawyer in Shreveport, LA has been trained in how to help you legally plan for what happens to your assets after you die or if you find yourself in a situation where you are unable to take care of yourself. A lawyer has the skills and knowledge in wills, trusts, and your local probate process. They understand the law and have helped many clients plan out their future and establish that their wishes will be carried out after death.
It can be difficult thinking about a future that doesn’t involve you, but sometimes it is the best thing you can do for the people that you care the most about. Your family and friend won’t have to go through the stress of figuring out what you may or may not have wanted to do with your assets. There are a lot of legal intricacies that only an estate planning lawyer will know about. They can ensure that your wishes will be met and that your family and friends will be taken care of after death. It isn’t the easiest topic to talk about, but it is a smart one.
Shreveport Estate Planning Lawyer
If you need assistance with your estate plan, contact a Shreveport estate planning lawyer. Estate planning can be a complex process. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about estate planning lawyers.
Q1: What Is An Estate Planning Lawyer, And What Do They Do?
A1: An estate planning lawyer is a legal professional who specializes in helping individuals manage and distribute their assets upon death or incapacitation. Their primary role involves creating comprehensive plans that ensure the smooth transfer of wealth to intended beneficiaries while minimizing tax liabilities.
Q2: Why Is Estate Planning Important?
A2: Estate planning is crucial for several reasons. It allows individuals to dictate how their assets should be distributed, appoint guardians for minor children, and minimize the impact of taxes and probate costs. Without proper planning, the distribution of assets may be subject to legal complications, leading to unintended consequences.
Q3: What Services Do Estate Planning Lawyers Offer?
A3: Estate planning lawyers provide a range of services, including drafting wills, establishing trusts, creating powers of attorney, and developing healthcare directives. They also offer advice on tax planning, asset protection, and strategies to avoid or minimize probate.
Q4: How Does A Will Differ From A Trust, And Which Is Better?
A4: A will is a legal document that outlines how a person’s assets should be distributed after death, while a trust is a legal entity that holds and manages assets for the benefit of specific individuals. The choice between a will and a trust depends on individual circumstances, with trusts often offering additional benefits such as privacy and the avoidance of probate.
Q5: When Should I Start Estate Planning?
A5: It’s advisable to start estate planning as soon as you have assets or dependents. However, it’s never too late to begin the process. Life changes, such as marriage, the birth of children, or the acquisition of significant assets, should prompt a review and potential update of your estate plan.
Q6: How Can Estate Planning Help With Tax Reduction?
A6: Estate planning lawyers employ various strategies to minimize tax liabilities, such as establishing trusts, gifting assets, and taking advantage of applicable tax exemptions. Proper planning can help ensure that the maximum value of assets passes to beneficiaries rather than being eroded by taxes.
Q7: What Happens If I Don’t Have An Estate Plan?
A7: Without an estate plan, the distribution of your assets will be subject to the laws of intestacy, which may not align with your wishes. This can lead to lengthy legal processes, family disputes, and potentially higher tax liabilities. Estate planning allows you to maintain control over your legacy.
Q8: Can I Create An Estate Plan Without A Lawyer?
A8: While it’s possible to create a basic estate plan using online tools, consulting with an estate planning lawyer is highly recommended. They can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances, ensuring that your plan is legally sound and addresses all relevant considerations.
Q9: How Often Should I Update My Estate Plan?
A9: It’s advisable to review your estate plan regularly, especially after significant life events such as marriages, divorces, births, or the acquisition of substantial assets. Regular updates help ensure that your plan remains aligned with your current circumstances and goals.
If you have additional questions, schedule a meeting with a Shreveport estate planning lawyer. At Theus Law Offices, we are happy to help with your estate planning needs.
Legal Assistance Is Available
If you have not updated your estate plan in some time, if your estate plan is incomplete, or if you have yet to draft an estate plan, connect with the experienced Louisiana legal team at Theus Law Offices today for guidance and support. We look forward to speaking with you.
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