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How a nontraditional family may change estate planning

Many Louisiana families are different from the traditional model of a mother, a father and their children living in one house together. They are far more likely to include stepchildren or adopted children, an unmarried cohabiting couple, single parents or to differ in some other way. This has implications for estate planning.

For example, a person might inadvertently leave adopted children or stepchildren out of an estate plan. An unmarried partner might be shut out by a dead partner's family. Legal definitions could cause complications in which people not intended as beneficiaries are defined as such and vice versa. A trust may help address some of these potential issues, but traditional trusts may need to be altered as well.

For example, a person may want more flexibility than a trust in which income passes to one beneficiary and then what is left to a remainder beneficiary on that person's death. This could be accomplished by appointing a trustee who has the power to make distributions. The person may also want to consider appointing a trust protector to oversee the trustee. A decanting provision makes it possible to decant the trust into a new one to clear up any errors or address issues that arise after the trust's creation. Individuals may want to meet with family members while creating the estate plan.

An attorney may assist a person in crafting an estate plan that fits the particular family situation. For some people, a will may be a better choice than a trust. People may also want to think about what documents they need in case of becoming incapacitated and who they want to take over their financial and health care decisions in that situation. All estate planning documents should be reviewed regularly to ensure that changes in the law, the family or a person's assets are reflected.

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