What we do.
A will is a legal document that allows you to determine who receives your property upon your death. Wills can be constructed to meet many specific wishes and family needs. In most cases, a properly drafted will allows a person to maintain significant control over how property is inherited. Without a will, all control over how assets are distributed is lost, and the state decides what to do with your property. When a will is drafted properly, you will have the options to:
Make special bequests;
Establish a testamentary trust;
Provide for independent administration of your estate;
Designate the executor of your estate; and
Provide for contingencies, such as an heir predeceasing you.
In Louisiana, wills are even trickier because of the unique succession laws, community property regime, usufruct law, and forced heirship, to name a few. Also, Louisiana has very specific requirements as to what qualifies as a valid will. We strongly encourage you to seek the advice of an attorney to help you prepare a will, or to review one you have written yourself in order to ensure you successfully navigate these potential traps.
A trust is a fiduciary relationship between a property owner and a property beneficiary, which requires the property owner to equitably handle the property on behalf of the property beneficiary. Clear as mud, right? Essentially, a living trust is a written collection of your instructions and directions about your estate, your values, your goals, and your wishes.
With a living trust, you determine who receives, what they receive, why they receive, and when they receive. Importantly, you determine how a person receives. Do you want your heirs to receive assets outright? Do you want your heirs to perform some specific function prior to receiving (e.g., reach a certain age, finish school, or hold a job). You decide. When your assets are subject to your instructions, the legacy you leave is not merely money or property, but a distribution of values, goals, and morals.
There are many advantages to using a living trust as part of your estate plan. A living trust allows you to keep control over your property and money. If you become disabled, the person who fills your shoes to act on your behalf is subject to the rules you created. Moreover, assets held in trust are not subject to probate. Also, after the passage of five years, assets put in trust are not Countable Resources for purposes of qualifying for Medicaid Long-Term Care benefits. To determine if a trust is the right estate plan for your family, you may want to consider the following:
Do you want your family to be able to avoid probate?
Do you want to control or influence how your legacy is passed?
Are you afraid family will fight over your assets when you are gone?
Do you have a child with special needs or a child receiving governmental assistance?
Do you have concerns regarding leaving money to someone that may not be mature enough to handle it?
Do you have a loved one with drug or alcohol problems?
If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, you should consult an attorney to explore whether a trust is appropriate for you, your family, and your situation.
The term “succession” means the transmission of the estate of a deceased person to his or her heirs. In other states, the process is called “probate.” A succession involves the gathering of documents to show the assets and liabilities of the estate. The process is filed with the court and is very public. Recently, Louisiana added the option to do a succession through independent administration, which essentially means that the executor/executrix can act with less court supervision. A succession can be conducted through independent administration if it is provided for in the will or if all of the heirs agree in writing to do an independent administration. Independent administration significantly reduces the time and cost of doing a succession. At Lineage, we understand that families are still grieving during the process of doing a succession. Our job is to assist your family in order to make these judicial proceedings occur as quickly and smoothly as possible without adding extra stress.
Powers of Attorney
Among the most important estate planning documents anyone can have are those granting an agent the right to act on your behalf if you become unable to act on your own. Temporary problems can arise due to illness, injury, inconvenience or general unavailability. More serious circumstances can occur due to irreversible issues such as dementia, Alzheimer's, long-term coma, or even as one enters the final days or weeks of life. In any of these scenarios, it is important to have agents designated to step up and act on your behalf, using the instructions you gave them on how to handle you and your finances, or the results most likely will not be what you wanted or intended to happen.
The term "living will" is often confused with Last Will and Testament. Unlike a Last Will and Testament, which takes effect at your death, a living will concerns the nature of the medical treatment you receive prior to your death. A living will is a written legal document in which a person directs the implementation or withdrawal of life-sustaining procedures in the event he or she suffers from a continual, profound comatose state or is diagnosed with a terminable, irreversible condition and cannot communicate his or her wishes. A living will authorizes your agent to enforce your wishes, whether that is terminating life-sustaining measures such as a feeding tube, or removing all life support. The benefit of the living will is that it drastically increases the likelihood that your wishes are honored, while simultaneously providing some level of comfort to those family members who are burdened with the painful obligation of making end-of-life decisions regarding a loved one.
Medicaid (Nursing Home)
When considered apart, the words "nursing" and "home" connote security and comfort. A nurse provides care, attention, and assistance. A home is a haven; a personal refuge of warmth, safety and peace. When the words are combined, however, feelings of concern and fear often arise. A primary source of anxiety is caused by families worrying about whether or not they can afford to pay for the cost of long-term nursing home care. The cost to stay in a nursing home often exceeds $50,000 a year in Louisiana, and the person in the nursing home is responsible for that cost if he or she has the financial resources. All too often, the nursing home ends up draining a parent's life savings. The net effect is that this deprives that person's children of the inheritance their parents spent decades accumulating and saving for their legacy. Thus, while a nursing home serves to provide necessary medical care and attention to our loved ones, the financial cost alone may quickly burn through a family's life savings.
Medicaid planning, whether done in advance or in response to an unanticipated medical crisis, can many times help protect a family's estate. Medicaid is a health insurance program that provides long-term care benefits for persons meeting certain income and asset limitations. Medicaid planning serves to structure ownership of assets in a manner that permits your family to retain control and receive necessary nursing home care. The laws regarding Medicaid qualification are extensive, and there are many exceptions. With advanced planning, a family may be able to save some or all of their assets and still qualify for Medicaid Long-Term Care benefits.
The In Marriage QDRO® is a new way to transfer funds from a qualified retirement account, such as a 401k or pension, to an IRA owned by one's spouse, without having to get a divorce. In utilizing this strategy, married couples can unlock retirement money that has previously been out of reach except through divorce proceedings. This tool can benefit the following clients:
Those who believe a financial advisor’s guidance in an IRA can provide a better rate of return or more stability than their 401k plan.
Individuals married to younger spouses who wish to delay the payment of required minimum distributions (RMDs).
Government employees, including teachers, who may wish to buy up to five years of “air time” service credit in order to retire at a younger age.
Wealthy couples who have entered into a premarital matrimonial agreement and file separate tax returns.
Parents who wish to use their 401k to fund their child’s college education.
Parents who wish to set up a beneficiary trust for children with special needs
Individuals who may wish to invest in a Roth IRA instead of a 401k.