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With so much uncertainty right now, it is natural for people to consider getting their affairs in order, specifically making sure their loved ones are taken care of, and their assets are protected. Even though estate planning should be a top priority at any time, with the world battling COVID-19, it is more important than ever to settle your accounts during these unprecedented times.

Our legal team at Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson understands that this challenging time has brought with it many worries and as a result, a high number of last-minute Wills.  That is why we have made it a point to help families and individuals in Louisiana finalize their estate planning needs while ensuring that each gets the professionalism, experience, and turnaround time that they want. In this blog post, we will explain in more detail what estate documents you should be considering right now and how COVID-19 has brought some significant changes to Louisiana’s estate planning rules.

What Estate Planning Documents Do You Need?

What’s great about estate planning, is it can be as detailed as you want it to be.  However, our law firm recommends that, at a minimum, the following estate planning documents should be created.

  • Wills or a Trust
  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
  • Durable Power of Attorney
  • Health Care Directives or a Living Will
  • Guardianship Designation (if you have a child)
  • HIPAA Authorization

Wills

A Will is a legal document whose primary purpose is to express a person’s desires of how their property will be allocated upon their death and which individual will manage the property until it is distributed. In addition, a Will may also legally specify certain provisions ensuring that their partner receives all of their possessions. During this COVID-19 emergency, certain aspects of creating a valid Will have changed in Louisiana, and it is important to understand these updates:

Does Louisiana require the Will to be witnessed?

Yes, the best practice is to sign your Will with two witnesses. However, the state also allows a Holographic Will to be admitted into probate court. A Holographic Will is an alternative to a Will produced by a lawyer, and it is handwritten and signed by the Will maker without witnesses.

Does Louisiana require the Will to be notarized?

Yes, a notary is required unless the Will is Holographic. A notarization is extremely beneficial to show that the Will is legally valid.

Does Louisiana allow for remote witnesses and/or a notary?

In general, Louisiana does not allow for remote witnesses and or a remote notary. However, due to the COVID-19 emergency, the state has issued the  Executive Proclamation 37 JBE 2020 which provides for remote notarizations in certain situations and when the following elements are met:

  • The individual creating the Will, any witnesses, and the Notary has to be able to communicate simultaneously by sound and sight through an electronic device or process at the time of the notarization.
  • The Notary has reasonably identified the individual creating the Will.
  • The Notary or an agent of the Notary has to create an audiovisual recording of the notarization. This recording must be retained for a period of at least ten years from the date of execution unless the Louisiana law states otherwise.
  • The individual creating the Will, any witnesses, and the Notary must affix their digital signature to the act in a way that makes any subsequent changes or modifications apparent.
  • This waiver for physical presence cannot be used when notarizing trust instruments, testaments, donations inter vivos, matrimonial agreements, or specific acts modifying, waiving, or extinguishing an obligation of final spousal support and authentic acts.

Trusts

A trust is a three-party fiduciary relationship where the first party, the settlor, or the trustor, transfers their property on to the second party for the benefit of a third party, or the beneficiary. These trusts are created to provide legal protection for the trustor’s assets and make sure they are distributed according to their wishes. Trusts not only help save time and reduce paperwork but in some instances, they can even minimize estate taxes. Some important legal aspects to consider when creating a trust include:

Does Louisiana Require a Trust to be Notarized?

In Louisiana, notarization of trust is only required if transferring real property. And even though the Executive Proclamation 37 JBE 2020 has allowed remote notarization in certain situations (as indicated above), it, unfortunately, does not apply to executing a trust. According to the proclamation, trusts are part of the exception and cannot be created using remote notarization.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

Another important legal document that you should consider is the Power of Attorney for Health Care. As this virus continues to spread, it has resulted in many people becoming critically ill and many others dying. That is why it is so vital to have this document in place right now as hospitals will usually look to your specific designee in your Power of Attorney to take control of your health care if you cannot do so yourself.

As you can see from the information listed above, there are many specifics that come into play with an estate plan, and we have only begun skimming the surface. If you are considering an estate plan, it is crucial to discuss these documents with a knowledgeable estate planning attorney. These lawyers can go over your individual goals of what you want to accomplish with your estate plan and help you carry out these particular desires.

Why Call Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson, LLC?

When it comes to issues involving taking care of your family and loved ones, we know that they need to be handled with the utmost vigilance, respect, and dedication.  With over 50 years of combined experience, the legal team at Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson have served the diverse legal needs of countless individual clients, families, and businesses, ensuring that each gets the attention and the representation they deserve.

With all that is unknown right now, do not let the stress of not having things in order get you down. Instead, if you are looking to create your own estate plan, contact us through our website or give us a call at 504-523-6496 to schedule a consultation with one of our experienced lawyers.

 

Nobody wants or expects to file for bankruptcy. However, when the COVID-19 pandemic ends up laying off millions of people, bankruptcy becomes a promising option for many. Especially when it can offer the relief that individuals need to help them continue to operate their business or provide them with a new beginning for a better future.

Before you make the critical decision of whether you need to file for bankruptcy, continue to read below and see how the COVID-19 outbreak has affected bankruptcy laws in Louisiana, what other steps you can take before filing, and how a bankruptcy attorney can help you.

Bankruptcy Changes During COVID-19

COVID-19 has brought with it many changes. Not only affecting our daily lives but changing how courts operate and how legal procedures are enacted across the country. The following bankruptcy rule updates have been implemented under the Federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help individuals during this Corona outbreak:

  • Individual Debtor: Under this Act, a debtor with a pre-existing Chapter 13 repayment plan can extend the length of their plan. However, to obtain this modification, the debtor needs to show a material financial hardship resulting from the pandemic.
  • Stimulus Checks: Stimulus checks and other federal law payments related to COVID-19 will not have an impact on debtors wishing to file for bankruptcy under Chapter 7 or Chapter 13.
  • Business Relief: For businesses looking to file for bankruptcy under Subchapter V of Chapter 11, the Act has substantially increased the debt limit, while also helping to relieve some financial challenges that companies face when filing for bankruptcy. It did this by stopping quarterly fees and stretching out payments, while also simplifying and speeding up the process so that businesses can get relief as soon as possible.
  • Original Signature Waivers: Usually, a bankruptcy attorney needs to get an original signature from their debtor client on their petition to file for bankruptcy. However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, particular bankruptcy courts in Louisiana have decided to waive this requirement, and now debtors and their attorney can review the paperwork virtually.
  • Section 341 Hearing: Debtors who file for bankruptcy under Chapter 13 or Chapter 7, usually have to take part in a meeting of creditors under Section 341 of the Bankruptcy Code. However, because of COVID-19, many of these meetings are now being conducted by telephone or another form of remote communication. You will need to check your specific court’s website to verify how they will be modifying their procedures for these meetings.

What Can you Do To Protect Yourself From Bankruptcy

With everything going on, it may be difficult to fit anything else onto your plate. Yet, by taking a minute and familiarizing yourself with possible programs that can conserve you money right now, it can help you avoid bankruptcy later on. And even though things may seem dire at this moment, there are steps that you can take to protect your rights and your business, and help prepare you for the best outcome post-COVID-19:

  • Student Loans: The government has allowed students to defer loan payments temporarily. Those with private loans should check with their provider if they have similar options.
  • Mortgage, Credit Card Payments, Car Payments: if you are having a hard time making payments, many institutions are offering loan extensions and deferred payment options. Some lenders are even offering emergency loans for those that need money right now.
  • Utility Bills: Many towns and cities have prohibited utility shut-offs during this Covid-19 pandemic. Yet, it is crucial to keep in mind that you will still need to pay the balance later, and you need to plan accordingly as the pay-off amount can be quite large.
  • Negotiate Your Debt: If you put your payments on hold, during this crisis, you may be able to negotiate lower fees with your creditors and even your landlord when you start the repayment process.
  • Government Assistance: Take a look into specific government programs that offer an extensive range of grants and no-interest loans to help small businesses stay afloat during this pandemic.
  • Do Not Stop Payments: Make sure you do not stop making any payments based on anything you heard or read on the internet. To qualify for any programs, you will have to apply and then wait to receive a qualification confirmation. If you stop paying before you are allowed to, it can result in many issues for you later on.

Why You Need an Experienced Bankruptcy Attorney

During these unprecedented times, it is no surprise that many people are worried about their financial stability. With all the “what ifs” that surround countless families, trying to figure out the next step can leave many with a lot of fear, tension, and worry.

On top of all the stress, the many new legal procedures that are being implemented because of COVID-19 can leave anyone feeling confused and uncertain. That is why now more than ever, it is essential to contact a knowledgeable and trusted bankruptcy attorney that can help you. These lawyers can:

  • Provide you with the up-to-date information to help you understand how your local, state, and federal laws have been affected due to COVID-19 and how they will affect you individually or your business.
  • Help you figure out what legal actions work best for you personally or your business.
  • If you choose to file for bankruptcy, they will provide you with the guidance and support you need to help protect your business’s future or your individual assets.

Call Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson, L.L.C. Today

At Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson, L.L.C., we understand what a challenging time this is for you and your loved ones. That is why our firm’s goal is to provide you with the clarity you need, the legal options you want, and the peace of mind you and your business are counting on. Do not wait any longer, contact our firm today, or call us at 504-523-6496, to speak with one of our experienced bankruptcy attorneys.

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