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Answers To Common Questions About Estate Law

Many people procrastinate in planning their estate because they don’t know much about the process. Thankfully, even a little information can be empowering. On this page, you’ll find answers to some of the most common questions that clients ask estate planning attorneys. After reading, please contact Buhrer Law Firm for answers to any additional questions you may have.

What is estate planning and who needs it?

At its most basic level, estate planning is making formal decisions about what will happen to your complete list of assets (your estate) when you pass away. This is usually accomplished through a last will and testament and other legal tools like trusts. Estate planning can also include putting protections in place if you become incapacitated (unable to make or communicate important decisions) later in life. Your plan may include power of attorney designations and a health care directive (commonly called a living will), among other documents.

Everyone could benefit from having an estate plan. Even if your estate is modest, you should still get to decide who will inherit your hard-earned assets. As stated above, it’s important to plan for incapacity and other serious health issues.

When should you start to consider estate planning?

None of us knows what the future holds, so you can create an estate plan anytime after reaching adulthood. You’ll just need to update your estate plan occasionally to account for big changes in life (like getting married and having kids, for instance).

What’s the difference between ‘probate’ and ‘succession?’

The only difference is in the terminology used. What we call succession in Louisiana is referred to as probate in most other states. Probate/succession is the process of proving a will, followed by going through the steps of settling the estate (distributing assets, settling debts, filing a tax return, etc.).

What does ‘power of attorney’ mean?

Durable power of attorney is a designation you give to someone else to make important decisions about finances and health care on your behalf if you become unable to do so (due to incapacity). In Louisiana, it is also known as procuration. Choosing power of attorney while you are still competent can prevent a lengthy and expensive court process should you become incapacitated later on.

What is the difference between a will and a trust?

A will is a document listing your assets and who you wish to give them to when you pass away. Some of your assets may already be “spoken for” in the form of beneficiary designations, as with a life insurance policy or retirement plan. The will would not govern these assets.

A trust is a not a document. Instead, it is a legal entity with its own rules and protocols for how/when the assets contained in it should be distributed. Trusts can supplement or replace a will in certain cases, or they can be created for other specific purposes, such as funding care for a disabled child or adult family member.

How can I protect my minor children if I die?

This is an issue that is thankfully rare. But when it does happen, the legal and financial implications can be huge. The reassuring news is that estate planning can be used to appoint guardians (known as tutors in Louisiana) for your minor children, determine who will control their inheritance and decide when they should receive it. Like all estate planning matters, this is best handled with the help of an experienced attorney.

Get Answers To Your Estate Planning Questions From A Knowledgeable Attorney

With an office in Metairie, Buhrer Law Firm serves clients throughout the surrounding areas of Louisiana. To schedule an initial consultation about your estate planning needs, call the office at 504-541-6997 or submit an online contact form.