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Planning for the hours or days following death or incapacity

Louisiana residents may put a comprehensive estate plan into place for a number of reasons. Wills ensure that assets will be distributed in a manner that testators approve of and trusts may be used to reduce tax exposure and avoid the public scrutiny of the probate process. However, peace of mind may be an estate plan's greatest benefit. Estate planning documents provide clear instructions for how assets should be distributed and children cared for should an individual die or become incapacitated, but they may not be of much use in the immediate aftermath of a tragedy.

Computers have made the legal system highly efficient in recent years, but it may still take days or even weeks for courts to rule on important issues such as the guardianship of children. This inevitable delay could be emotionally damaging to children who are already struggling to cope with the loss of their loved ones, and it may undermine the peace of mind that prudent estate planning documents are designed to provide.

Individuals could choose to address this estate planning gap by drafting a set of instructions to be followed in the hours and days following death or incapacity. Such documents may not have the legal standing of last wills and testaments, powers of attorney or trusts, but they can provide crucial guidance to friends and relatives during difficult times. They could include a list of people to call in the event of an emergency as well as instructions for the temporary care of children.

Attorneys could help their clients to compile emergency instructions, and they could also recommend that copies be left in prominent places to ensure their quick discovery by either concerned individuals or emergency services personnel. Attorneys could also suggest that this document be revisited regularly and modified if necessary.

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