Many times people leave specific items or cash amounts to their heirs when drawing up their will or trust. In Louisiana, our law calls for these inheritances or bequests (as they are technically termed) to be dispensed with before any other bequests. These other bequests could include collections of things or percentages of the entire estate. This law could in some cases lead to undesired results, especially in cases where a person’s estate is not large enough to cover all of their bequests.
For example, Grandma’s will leave a diamond ring to granddaughter Susie and $10,000 to grandson Jay, with the remainder of her estate being left to her sons John and Robert to be divided equally. Grandma intends for John and Robert to inherit the bulk of her estate value under this will, but unexpected circumstances have created a situation where grandma’s estate is only worth about $15,000 at death with $3,000 in the ring and the remaining $12,000 in liquid assets such as cash and stock. Under this scenario, Susie will take the $3,000 ring first, Jay will take his $10,000 cash bequest next and the remaining $2,000 is split between her sons. This result was clearly not what grandma intended, but she wrote this will when she had much more in the way of assets and believed her sons would receive an amount greater than or equal to the amount inherited by her grandchildren.
To avoid this result, grandma could have used conditional bequests when drafting her will to ensure that her sons would receive the bulk of the estate. To ensure that your Louisiana will doesn’t contain costly errors such as this it is always a good idea to consult a professional when it comes to creating your estate plan. I practice exclusively in the area of estate planning for residents in New Orleans, Metairie, Mandeville, Covington, and individuals throughout Louisiana. To speak with me regarding your estate plan, feel free to call me at (504) 274-1980 or (985) 246-3020.