5 Common Misconceptions Louisianians Have About Wills

Repeat after me: "Wills Are Not Just For Your Parents."

If Tubbs and I had a dollar for every time someone told us they weren't old enough to have a will, we could retire and have a lifetime supply of Milk Bones already. When most folks think of wills they think about their parents or grandparents having a will and exclaim, "I don't need one! I am young!"

Well to quote Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey's Death played by William Sadler, "You may be a king or a little street sweeper, but sooner or later you dance with the reaper!" You can pass away young, old, rich, poor, with children, without children, with a business, without one..... No matter what, you're going to leave behind someone (or if we are cynical here, something) that will miss you. The last thing you want to do is leave them in a lurch or in court figuring out what to do.

The following are common misconceptions we hear from folks about Slidell wills. Note that these are our takes on the law and is not meant to be legal advice. Seek your own counsel in your own state.

Does Any Of This Apply To You

  • You have a life partner (guess what? If you aren't married, there's no common law marriage right in Louisiana--- they will get nothing if you pass unless you direct for it in your will!)
  • You own a business
  • You are married
  • You are married but you've been separated for years and are seeing new people. You just haven't gotten that divorce paperwork filed yet.
  • You are divorced
  • You have a child
  • You adopted a child
  • You are not married to the mother or father of your child
  • You are taking care of a family member's child
  • You want to disinherit someone. Your child tried to kill you (ok, but really, that's a thing), your child hasn't talked to you in years....
  • You have a special needs loved one that you need to set aside money for in a way that won't dissolve their benefits OR to ensure they have a caretaker after you've passed
  • You have a pet that you want taken care of and not sent to a shelter
  • You want to handle your estate without having to pay out of pocket expenses (Executor, Independent)

If you answered yes to any of those questions, guess what? You need a will.

And in some cases, you may need to set up a testamentary trust, trust outside the will, or establish a Tutorship for children or loved ones in your care.

"I Will Let the State Handle It. I'll Be Dead."

I hear this one a lot. And look, it's your property and wishes. You do as you please. But I can tell you from experience, when your family is grieving, the last thing they want to do is shell out money to parcel out your estate or argue over who gets what. And if you don't have a will then the state law decides the order of who gets what..... and it is not what you may expect.

And let's be honest, some of your family members may be waiting for you to kick the bucket so they can divide up your estate. Death and the potential of money does not bring out the best in people. Trust us on this.

It is much, much easier to just lay out who gets what before you are sick or before you pass.

"My Partner Will Get My Child If I Die"

What happens if your husband passes before you or with you?

What happens if you aren't married to your partner, the parent to your child?

This is why it is so, so important to have a Tutorship in your will. It lays out who will take care of your minor children if you pass away. A good one will lay out alternatives. Example (this is not legal verbiage): If I die then Suzy Q goes to her father, Johnny T. If Johnny T predeceases me or is unable or unwilling then Suzy Q goes to Grandma Q. If Grandma Q predeceases me or is unable or unwilling then Suzy Q goes to Aunt Karen. And so on. And how is Suzy Q going to have any money? You set up a Trust for her and allow the Tutor to administer it.

"My Business Goes To My Partner"

Except you don't have a partnership agreement or an Operating Agreement. In fact your "partner" isn't listed anywhere on documents. Ruh-roh. What should you do? Ideally have a partnership agreement and Operating Agreement drawn up on the business while yall are alive (actually, stop reading this and call a lawyer and get that drafted now), but you can list who gets your interest in your business in your will. If you have employees and debts you want to take care of rather than leave it for the defunct business, get a life insurance policy too.

"My Pet Will Be Taken Care Of"

Think again. How many times have you seen posts where an owner died suddenly and now Fluffy is at a shelter? Your mom and best friend may say they will take Fluffy in if you pass but what if they don't? What if they take in Fluffy and she decides to attack their animals? Fluffy goes to the pound. Does the same person who gets your children get the dog?

And in Louisiana, pets are still considered property. If you have a pet you are probably outraged reading that statement. But it is true. We wrote not one but two whole articles on dog laws in Louisiana.

So add in who gets Fluffy in your will. Just like with children, list a few alternates too. You can even set up a trust for your pet and/or give the caretaker money for Fluffy. Spoiler alert: I have Tubbs listed in my will. It's not weird, ok.

"Having A Will Drafted Is Expensive"

Expensive is a relative term but simple wills don't cost you an arm and leg. At least not where I am concerned in my practice. I think everyone should be able to have access to wills, powers of attorneys, and directives. It's why I offer an affordable bundle package deal. Many local pro bono offices can do drafting for free if you qualify based on your income, like Southeast Louisiana Legal Services or Good Samaritans. If you are a law enforcement officer or family member there is an event called Wills For Heroes that does wills and personal documents for free every year.

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Want to discuss your will or powers of attorney? Is there a topic you want to hear more about? Leave a comment on our Facebook page, call or text us at 985-265-7196, or shoot us an email at amber@ambersheppardlaw.com to start a conversation.

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