Many people may realize the importance of estate planning, yet they still decide to put it off. They tend to think that the process is too expensive, too complicated, or the options do not seem appealing. Yet, they do not even realize how many planning choices they have. In the past, individuals may have turned to a will to take care of their estate plans. However, these days many people are choosing a revocable living trust instead. Why? Because of the time and cost savings that this trust provides them, plus the extra control they have over their assets.

If you are in Louisiana and thinking about your own estate planning needs, this guide will help you understand the steps involved in creating a revocable living trust, the importance of funding, and why it may be the right decision for you and your loved ones.

What Does “Funding” Your Trust Mean?

Funding a trust is the process of transferring assets from your name into your trust. To do this, you need to physically change the titles of your specific assets from your name (individual or joint name, if married) to your trust’s name. You would also need to change most of your beneficiary designations to your trust as well.

Why is Funding So Important?

One of the main reasons people in Louisiana turn to a living trust is to avoid probate or the succession process. This process tends to be costly, time-consuming, and an invasion of privacy as most of your private matters become public record. Unfortunately, some individuals make the mistake of not transferring the title of their assets to their trusts, and as a result, do not avoid this probate process. Until you fund your trust, your trust will not control anything. If you want your living trust to avoid probate at death, you need to make sure you change titles and beneficiary designations while you are able to do so.

Is the Funding Process Difficult?

Overall the funding process is not complicated, but it takes some time to complete. Even though today, you should not meet much resistance to transferring your assets. You will still need to prepare the transfer documents. Additionally, an institution may want to see proof that your trust exists before moving assets over. As a result, you will also need to have your attorney prepare a certificate of trust, which is a shortened version of the trust that verifies the trust’s existence and identifies the trustee and explains the power given to them.

To simplify this process, make sure you make a list of your assets, including their locations and values. This can help you avoid getting sidetracked and ensure your information is complete. In addition, consider working with an experienced legal team that understands this funding process. They can help you prepare most of the required documents, while also being there to assist and encourage you the whole way.

Why Do I Need a Living Trust in Louisiana?

One of the primary reasons many people in Louisiana decide to create a living trust is because you can continue to sell and buy assets just as you usually do and remove any assets at any point in time.

In addition, a living trust creates privacy. This trust does not need to be approved by the court and will not become a public record. As a result, nobody will know what is indicated in the trust, what assets are passed down, and who gets what. In comparison, a will is public and must be approved by the probate court to be valid.

Finally, a living trust will also protect you if you become mentally incapacitated. Since all of your assets are owned, managed, and controlled by the trust, a conservatorship proceeding will most likely not be needed to have your financial life managed for your benefit. Rather, you will be able to appoint an individual that you know and trust to be the trustee, if you are unable to serve or to continue to serve in this position. This will help you stay in control for as long as possible before you allow another individual to manage your assets.

Who Controls The Assets in My Revocable Living Trust?

A revocable living trust is a legal entity created to hold ownership of an individual’s assets. In most cases, the individual forming the revocable living trust will name themselves as trustees, meaning they will be responsible for managing and controlling the assets placed in it. Until their death, at which point the named successor trustee will take over.

Are There Specific Assets I Need to Put into My Living Trust?

Typically, you would want all of your assets to be placed in your trust. However, not all assets can be placed in your trust, and there may be some that you do not want to be in there. Generally, the assets that you will want in your living trust include:

  • Real Estate
  • Investments
  • Business Interests
  • Notes Payable to You
  • Banks/ Savings Accounts

Speaking with an experienced Louisiana estate planning attorney can help you figure out exactly which assets you need to place in your living trust and which ones you should not. For example, IRAs, life insurance proceeds, annuities, and other retirement assets are considered non-probate assets. This means they cannot be transferred into a living trust because of their negative tax consequences. That is why it is best to discuss this issue with a lawyer.

Let Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson Help You with Your Estate Planning Needs

Estate planning requires paying attention to details and ensuring that everything is prepared adequately. For many, this is not possible on their own. That is why the law firm of Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson is here to help you. These experienced estate planning attorneys can help you decide if a living trust is a viable option for you. If so, they can make sure that all the necessary steps of creating this trust are met.

If you have any questions about living trusts and the funding process, or any other estate planning concerns, do not hesitate to contact Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson today, or call our firm at 504-523-6496.



What Does It Mean To Fund A Living Trust? (2019). RabalaisEstatePlanning

Revocable Living Trusts. (ND).Theus Law Offices.

Understanding Funding Your Living Trust. (ND). Estate Planning.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, a record-breaking number of Louisiana citizens have suffered job loss. In April, that number hit a record high of 15.1% of the Louisiana population. By June, that number still hovered around 9.7%. As a result, the government has offered several protections intended to aid Louisiana citizens, including protecting tenants.

Unfortunately, many landlords and tenants struggle to understand the new regulations and the impact they can have on them. Exactly what protections do you have under those laws? Consider how tenant rights have changed as a result of COVID-19 and what tenants can expect in terms of protections.

1. Tenants could not be evicted for nonpayment until July 25.

The federal government passed a ban on evictions, stating that tenants could not be evicted from a property for nonpayment until at least July 25. Trump is currently trying to extend that deadline, since many people are still suffering job uncertainty or decreased income as a result of the pandemic. Once served with eviction, tenants have 30 days to vacate the property.

The ban on eviction did not mean that landlords could not serve tenants with a Notice to Vacate, which let tenants know that they needed to move out of the property. However, since the courts closed down to help decrease the spread of COVID-19, landlords could not legally force tenants to leave the property until the ban on evictions ended.

In spite of the ban on evictions, tenants do still bear responsibility for paying all rent accrued during this period. While landlords cannot evict tenants immediately, tenants will still be responsible for paying their rent. Failure to pay rent during the pandemic can still result in eviction after that period ends.

2. Tenants in some types of properties had further protections.

Tenants in several properties could not be evicted, nor could late fees be charged, if tenants lived in certain specific properties. This included:

  • Section 8 housing
  • HUD-subsidized properties
  • Properties that receive Low Income Housing Tax Credits
  • Properties in which the landlord has a federal-backed mortgage

3. Tenants always have 30 days to vacate the property after an eviction notice.

If you receive an eviction notice for any reason, including inability to pay your rent now that the restrictions on evictions have expired, you have 30 days following that legal notice to vacate the property. You do not have to worry about packing up and leaving on the spot as soon as you have been served with an eviction notice. Thanks to that 30-day period, you will have time to find alternative housing and generate the income you need in order to pay your rent.

4. Tenants who live in income-based housing and lose a source of income should see a reduction in rent.

In income-based housing, tenants pay for their housing based on a percentage of their income, rather than having to pay the full amount usually charged for rent. The government subsidizes the rest of the cost of housing. If you live in income-based housing and suffered a decrease in your income due to COVID-19, either due to job loss or due to decreased hours as a result of the pandemic, you can apply to have your rent reduced, as well. This provision can help eliminate some of the financial burden faced by many people in the midst of the pandemic.

5. Landlords cannot forcibly evict tenants under any circumstances.

While landlords can serve a notice of eviction once the ban on evictions ends, they cannot forcibly evict tenants. In order to force an eviction, landlords must work with the police after filing a notice with Louisiana court. That means that landlords cannot:

  • Turn off utilities to the property in an effort to force tenants to move
  • Lock tenants out of the property
  • Forcibly remove a tenant’s possessions without the consent of the tenant

If your landlord attempts to forcibly evict you, you may have legal recourse. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your legal rights.

What happens if I cannot afford to pay my rent due to income loss because of COVID-19?

Tenants are still responsible for paying rent, even in the face of COVID-19 job loss. While your landlord could not evict you because of failure to pay until the federal freeze on evictions runs out, many tenants are struggling now, as that restriction runs out. If you lost your job or suffered decreased income due to COVID-19, you may have options available.

First, talk to your landlord as soon as possible. Many landlords are willing to work with tenants as much as possible to help them manage during the pandemic. Talk to your landlord and let them know about your job loss as well as what you plan to do about it or any steps you have taken to secure income. Discuss what you can pay or when you think you may be able to pay.

Apply for unemployment as soon as possible. COVID-19 guidelines have changed the way people apply for unemployment and the people who can seek unemployment. Freelancers and self-employed individuals may have the right to unemployment benefits under COVID-19 relief provisions. Apply for unemployment as soon as possible to help increase your income and your ability to pay during this time.

Seek alternative housing if needed. If income restrictions continue and you cannot afford to pay your rent, make alternative housing arrangements as soon as possible. Your landlord may allow you to break your lease early if you are up front about your inability to pay.

If you feel that a landlord has violated your rights as a tenant, either due to normal tenant requirements or due to the new regulations associated with COVID-19, do not wait. Get in touch with an experienced attorney as soon as possible to learn more about your rights and work toward resolution. If you need an attorney experienced with New Orleans tenant rights, contact Stephenson, Chavarri & Dawson, L.L.C. at 504-523-6496 today.

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


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.


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.


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