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Emergency Estate Planning, Wills and Trusts During COVID-19

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.

 

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