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What is a Will and do you need one?

Updated: Jul 9, 2022

During the past two years, many of us have unexpectedly lost loved ones to COVID-19, leaving behind children, spouses and friends. While difficult to think about for many of us, planning for unfortunate events does not have to be daunting and can provide comfort and security much like car insurance. Making sure your affairs are in order can ensure your loved ones are taken care of in the future and minimize turmoil between family members. A will is simply a formal document, that allows you to declare which of your investments and heirlooms are passed down to whom. You work hard, have nice things and may be the first person to leave some wealth to your children and loved ones. Having a will is a responsible way to make sure that your assets that you’ve worked so hard to acquire are able to continue working for your family for many years to come. Whether a home, business, investment, jewelry, art or car; you get to decide who holds on to these items in your memory. In a perfect world, kids and family members would be able to navigate distribution of your possessions in a fair manner. However, in the event your family is met with unfortunate events, emotions and stress levels may run high, causing people to have cloudy judgment or struggle with making the choices you would have wanted. To ease tensions and make sure your wishes are carried out with fidelity a will is a simple process that makes life easier for everyone.

A Last Will and Testament's main purpose is to inform the court of your wishes. You can leave your estate to whoever you want. You can exclude children if you wish, unless they are what Louisiana defines as forced heirs. Forced heirs are defined as children under the age of twenty four or a child of any age incapable of taking care of themselves because of a mental or physical disability at the time of your death. If you have one forced heir, the heir must receive one-fourth (1/4) of the net total of your estate. If you have two or more forced heirs they must receive one-half (1/2) of the net total of your estate. There are some exceptions, but this is the general rule.

You can appoint an Executor in your will. The Executor must follow your instructions and transfer your estate to the people you selected. You can make your Executor an Independent Executor in your will. This will make process of transferring your property easier and cheaper. However, because you make them independent there is less court oversight in the process of transferring your estate. For example, your Independent Executor can sell real estate from your estate without asking the court for permission or advertising the sale in the newspaper. Therefore, if you make your Executor independent, it should be a person you really trust.

Even with a will, your heirs still need to open succession to receive your estate. Your will is the set of instructions and the succession is the process in which your estate is transfered, following the instructions in your will. However, if you don't have a will at the time of your death, your succession will be classified as intestate. In such case, the Louisiana rules for an intestate succession will apply. This is complex set of rules that must be strictly followed for people who die intestate. There are several factors to consider such as: whether property is community or separate, if an heir predeceased you or not, if you had children, if your parents are alive at the time of your death and several other factors. However, all this complication can be avoided and your wishes can be honored if you make a valid will. Your will does not have to be prepared by an attorney, a will written entirely in your handwriting and signed and dated on every page and at the end of the document is valid in Louisiana. It is called an ologaphic will. However, an olographic will requires further proof after your death to court that it was your will. Unfortunately, olographic wills are often found by the courts to be invalid. The alternative is a notarial will which is signed by you in the presence of a notary and two witnesses and contains an attestation clause which makes the will "self proving" eliminating the need for further proof that the document is your last will and testament.

Schedule an estate planning consultation now for free to discuss your will, call 504-915-5016.

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