ESTATE PLANNING / ASSET PROTECTION

estate planning lawyers la louisiana ESTATE PLANNING / ASSET PROTECTION


 

 

Theus Law Offices specializes in estate, succession and asset protection planning. We utilize the most advanced techniques for both large and small estates to create a comprehensive plan tailored specifically for the unique needs and circumstances of each client.

Asset Protection is an integral part of Estate Planning.  Theus Law Offices incorporates asset protection features that effectively shield your legacies from unforeseen liabilities today and for future generations.

Our team includes one of the area’s only certified specialists in Estate Planning and Administration, You will receive experienced, competent and insightful advice necessary to ensure that your loved ones will not be burdened with the emotional and financial costs of succession and probate matters, and that your legacies will be protected

Theus Law Offices offers expertise and consultation in the following areas:
 

  • Wills and Trusts
    Whether you need a simple will, or require additional estate planning to attain more complicated goals, we provide comprehensive, experienced representation.  Preparing a will and planning your estate is a necessary step to protect for your family or loved ones in the event of death or incapacity. 

    A will takes effect at death and allows you to do the following:
    • Select an executor who will administer your estate and make sure the terms of your will are carried through
    • Nominate tutors for minor children
    • Choose the people (legatees) who will receive assets of your estate
    • Establish one or more trusts and select a trustee to manage and protect inheritances
    • Provide for special needs of legatees
    • Integrate asset protection to protect legacies from unforeseen issues, such as lawsuits, liens, incapacity and divorce. 
    A will is typically accompanied by two additional documents: (1) a Power of Attorney; and (2) a Health Care Directive.  A properly drafted, durable Power of Attorney allows you to appoint another person of your choosing to make financial and health care decisions and to manage your affairs in the event you become incapacitated.  If you become incapacitated before executing a valid power of attorney, a court proceeding referred to as an Interdiction will be required to declare you legally incompetent, at which time the court will designate a curator to manage your affairs, who could be anyone.  Interdiction contests are often very contentious and expensive. 

    A Health Care Directive, sometimes referred to as a Living Will, concerns end of life decisions and basically instructs the health care provider as to whether you wish (or do not wish) to have your life prolonged by life-sustaining treatments in the event your condition becomes terminable and irreversible (as determined by treating physicians). Absent a directive, difficult end-of-life decisions become quite contentious and sometimes litigious. 

    Estate planning is a process, and the circumstances of every individual are unique. There is no such thing as a magic elixir or cookie-cutter estate plan, especially one that properly integrates asset protection planning features. Once a plan is established, the completed plan should be reviewed and updated as circumstances change.    
     
  • Asset Protection Planning
    In Louisiana, virtually anything can be seized by creditors, including your home. Theus Law Offices utilizes proven strategies to help safeguard your hard-earned assets and legacies from unforeseeable liabilities. 

    Asset protection planning can and should be integrated with any estate or business plan. Techniques can be as simple as a single (specially designed) trust, and may include the use of limited liability companies with enhanced features to provide additional barriers. 

    Louisiana law affords significant protection for claims against a beneficiary’s interest in a properly-designed Louisiana trust -- if the trust is established by a third person (e.g., a parent for the benefit of a child) – as long as the assets remain in trust.  Utilizing a Trust Protector can substantially enhance the asset protection features of a Louisiana trust.

    Louisiana law provides no creditor protection for self-settled trusts (i.e., a trust established by a person with their own assets for their own benefit).   However, a handful of states, such as Nevada, Alaska, Delaware and Mississippi (“DAPT States”), have adopted Domestic Asset Protection laws that allow the use of Domestic Asset Protection Trusts (“DAPTs”).  DAPTs afford creditor protection to self-settled trusts.  A person does not need to be resident of a DAPT State to use a DAPT, but must employee a Trustee located in a DAPT State.  In order to ensure that a Trustee located in a DAPT State remains accountable to both the Settlor(s) and the Beneficiary(ies), a person can appoint a Louisiana-based Trust Protector. 

    If you are concerned that your assets are unnecessarily at risk, the time to implement strategies to safeguard your assets is well in advance of any threatened litigation.  Put yourself, your family and business partners at ease with a secure, guided asset protection plan with the help of our attorneys. 
     
  • Trust Protector Services
    A Trust Protector (sometimes referred to as a Trust Advisor) is an individual or entity who is appointed within a Trust Agreement and granted certain powers to protect the terms of the Trust.  One of the most common powers of a Trust Protector is the power to remove and replace the Trustee.  However, other powers may be included to further fortify and safeguard Trust assets and to ensure the Trust continues to be administered in accordance with the wishes of the Settlor.  Ideally, a Trust Protector should be an objective party with no interest in the Trust. 

    Theus Law Offices provides trust protector services for domestic and off-shore trusts through Trust Protector Services, L.L.C.  To learn more about Trust Protector Services, please visit www.trustprotectorservices.net.
  • Succession and Probate Administration
    We recognize the probate process is a difficult and sensitive time in the lives of our clients. We are committed to ensuring that our clients feel informed and connected through every stage of the process.  Our attorneys will guide you through the process with an eye toward post-mortem planning opportunities, as well as necessary changes to existing estate and business plans. 
  • Estate and Trust Litigation
    During the course of a succession proceeding or trust administration, it is fairly common to experience tension and dissent., even in the best of families. Sometimes these difficulties are relatively minor. However, many disputes require legal intervention. 

    As certified specialists in estate planning and administration, we know the issues when it comes to resolving tough disputes. Whether contesting or defending the validity of a will or donation, challenging the acts of a fiduciary, disputing the characterization of an asset, or any number of other possible points of contention, Theus Law Offices is well prepared to prosecute or defend your cause of action. 

    Our team of attorneys has the skill and tenacity to take on the toughest cases – and we get results.  Regardless of the circumstances, we balance the task of resolving estate and inheritance issues with the importance of preserving and honoring the memory of the deceased.   
     
  • Business Succession Planning
    You have worked hard to build your business and deserve to leave it in good hands. Our attorneys provide planning services that integrate your business interests with your family estate planning, tax and retirement objectives.

    We work closely with clients to avoid ownership and control disputes. We design and implement plans that will preserve, protect and transfer assets before an unexpected triggering event – such as retirement, death or change of circumstances – that demands an immediate response to complex business, tax, health care and legal issues. 

    A business succession plan outlines how changes in ownership and management will be executed.   Once a plan is established, the completed plan should be reviewed and updated as circumstances change. 

    At Theus Law Offices, our goal is to give each client the comfort of knowing their business is prepared to adapt to change, ensuring continuation and maximum return to the owners.
  • Medicaid and Elder Law Planning
    No one wants to think about a time when they will be able to care for themselves, but failing to do so can decimate a lifetime of savings.

    It is important to plan far in advance for Medicaid eligibility and to consider all available resources, such as long-term care insurance.  Proper advanced planning can avoid the need to spend down assets prior to applying for Medicaid.  Crisis planning is required when time does not permit proper advanced planning. 

    A primary goal of long-term care planning is to help ensure you receive proper care while preserving your legacies for future generations.  Put yourself and your family at ease with a secure, guided long-term care plan with the help of our attorneys.

    Call us today for an appointment. 

frequently ask questions

  • Q. What is Estate Planning?
    Simply put, estate planning is the process of you (or you and your spouse) making the necessary decisions required to put your affairs in order, and memorialize your wishes before you pass away or become incapacitated. In the event of a sudden accident or illness, you can rest assured that your spouse, children, chosen nonprofit organization, or other persons of your own choosing, will receive the assets you would like them to receive.
  • Q. What is Asset Protection Planning?

    “Asset protection is the process of organizing one’s assets and affairs in advance so as to safeguard against risks to which the assets would otherwise be subject.” Engel, Barry, Asset Protection Planning Guide, 3rd Ed.  Asset protection is like a vaccine. It works best when administered in advance and should properly be integrated with an estate or business plan.  

  • Q. What is a Will?
    A will, sometimes referred to as a "Last Will and Testament" is a document that a person signs to provide for the orderly disposition of assets after death. Wills do not avoid probate. Wills have no legal authority until the willmaker dies and the original will is delivered to the appropriate authority. In Louisiana, that authority is the Judicial District Court of the Parish of residence of the Deceased. In other states it is typically the Probate Court. Everyone with minor children needs a will. It is the only way to appoint the new "parent" of an orphaned child. Special testamentary trust provisions in a will can provide for the management and distribution of assets for your heirs and continued protection from claims of creditors, including future spouses. Additionally, assets can be arranged and coordinated with provisions of the testamentary trusts to avoid death taxes. A "pourover" will is typically included with a Revocable Trust. A will can be a highly complex document, so it is wise to seek legal counsel from a knowledgeable Louisiana estate planning attorney (sometimes referred to as a wills attorney). 
  • Q. What are Trusts?

    Trusts are separate legal entities, like corporations.

    Trusts hold assets for you or for the benefit of others.

    Assets inside a trust are managed by a trustee who has legal responsibility for managing and overseeing trust proceeds in accordance with your wishes. The trust stipulates how your assets should be managed, and how, when and to whom your assets will be distributed.

    Many people think only the wealthy can benefit from trusts. But this is simply not true. Trusts are highly flexible and can provide for an almost unlimited combination of needs, circumstances and objectives.

    Because they can be designed to satisfy such specific needs and circumstances, trusts can address the concerns and objectives of most people. These include:

    Business owners and other individuals who wish their financial affairs to be private
    Unlike wills, trusts can hide assets and their disposition from public scrutiny armed with information from a probate proceeding. For example, a competitor might be able to force the sale of the decedent’s business at a below-market price.

    Owners of highly appreciated assets
    When highly appreciated assets are sold, a large chunk of the gain may go to taxes. A trust can shelter property from taxes on income and capital gain and thus avoid the tax bite.

    Setting up a charitable remainder trust (CRT) provides the grantor with income for life and creates charitable tax deductions.

    Dependents
    Trusts offer a method of providing regular income to dependents and the possiblity of tax savings for you. They also offer control through the choice of mandatory or discretionary payments, as you may specify to suit the dependents' changing support, educational and medical needs.

    In addition, trusts can provide for the orderly passage of one’s property without the expense, delay, or publicity of probate, and for professional investment management for family members who lack this skill.

    Retirees, widows, widowers
    A trust can provide a monthly check, freedom from making investment decisions and the burden of bookkeeping details. It can also provide for the management of financial affairs in the event of illness or incapacitation, and tax savings on future gifts to charity.

    Spouses in second marriages
    A trust can protect the interests of children from a previous marriage, and spare friends and family members from legal conflicts.

    Parents of children with special needs
    Trusts can ensure that children and others with special needs will have their financial concerns properly addressed.

    Individuals concerned about becoming ill
    Trusts ensure that their financial affairs will be handled properly. They also handle the obligation of naming a guardian or conservator to oversee these responsibilities.

    Unmarried couples and close friends
    A trust can provide a "significant other" with income for life while keeping assets in the grantor’s family. Upon the death of the loved one, assets can revert back to a family member or to a specific charity.

    Individuals who need help in handling their finances
    Trusts can manage the assets and oversee all responsibilities regarding record-keeping and tax preparation for those unwilling or incapable of handling their financial affairs.

    A trust can be a highly complex document, so it is wise to seek legal counsel from a knowledgeable Louisiana estate planning attorney (sometimes referred to as a Louisiana trust attorney). 

  • Q. What is a Revocable Living Trust?
    A Revocable Living Trust is a contract reflecting an agreement regarding the passing of property from one to another. A trust is revocable when it can be revoked, or terminated, by the Settlors. It is living in that it can also be amended by the Settlors during their lifetimes. The Settlor is the current owner of the estate or assets. The Settlor is most often also the Trustee initially, and their job is to manage the assets that the Settlors place into the trust. A Beneficiary is a recipient who will at some point inherit the property or assets. All of these people, Settlors, Trustees and Beneficiaries, are named by the Settlors in the trust document. A Revocable Living Trust will most often allow your beneficiaries to receive their inheritance directly, without going through the time and expense of court proceedings. A revocable trust can be a highly complex document, so it is wise to seek legal counsel from a knowledgeable Louisiana estate planning attorney (sometimes referred to as a Louisiana wills and trusts attorney). 
  • Q. What is Probate?
    Probate is the court process of transferring title to certain property and assets after a person has died. Probate property is, generally speaking, all of your assets which are not held in trust, and which do not pass title by some other means, such as beneficiary designation. If you have no will in place, and your assets are not held in trust, Louisiana law will determine who will receive your probate property when you pass. If you have a properly drafted will, your wishes will be stated as to who your probate assets should go to. This can be a complicated process at an already difficult time, and it is wise to seek legal counsel from a knowledgeable, Louisiana probate attorney.
  • Q. What does Intestacy mean?
    No estate planning at all results in an "intestate estate." By choosing not to have a will or trust you are allowing your estate to pass according to the laws of the State of Louisiana, to your heirs at law. You may not agree with their plan, but unfortunately roughly 70 percent of Americans currently use it. You give up the security and peace of mind of knowing exactly who will receive the benefit of all your hard work, and sentimental valuables. You may also forfeit the benefit of reducing any taxes due at your death. 
  • Q. What is a Durable Power of Attorney?
    A Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone you know and trust to make your financial decisions even when you cannot. If you become incapacitated without this legal document, then you and your family will be involved in a court proceeding known as an interdiction (or guardianship or conservatorship in other states). This is the court proceeding where a judge determines who should make these decisions for you under the ongoing supervision of the court.
  • Q. What is a Living Will?
    What is commonly called a "Living Will" is more properly called an Advance Health Care Directive or Advance Medical Directive. In Louisiana, the purpose of these documents is to accomplish two things: 1) designate a person to make all forms of health care decisions, if one is ever unable, due to incapacity, to make them for themselves; and 2) to state your wishes in advance regarding what types of medical life support measures you prefer to have, or have withheld/withdrawn if you are in a terminal condition (without reasonable hope of recovery) and cannot express your wishes yourself.
  • Q. What are Beneficiary Designations?
    You may avoid probate on the transfer of some assets at your death through the use of beneficiary designations. Laws regarding what assets may be transferred without probate (non-probate transfer laws) vary from state to state. Some common examples include life insurance death benefits and bank accounts.
  • Q. When should I set up my estate plan?
    Whether you are young or elderly, just getting your family started, or have an empty nest, it is never too soon or too late to create a comprehensive estate plan, while you are still able to do so.

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