The following story is a trap where unknowing families often wind up paying hundreds of thousands of unnecessary estate tax dollars. I was working with a family where Dad died a few weeks ago and the family was doing a lot of things on their own. Dad had some IRA's that went to the surviving wife. They were able to do all of that paperwork with the financial institution because she was the designated beneficiary. They also had an account that had about a million dollars in it and was titled, "Dad and Mom, Joint Tenants with Rights of Survivorship." Now, that's a form of title that Louisiana simply doesn't recognize. However, they had that account and as far as that investment company knew, if it was titled that way and Dad died, they were going to put the account in Mom's name. That's exactly what they did. Mom has all of the money and they felt like we didn't even need to address that account. Dad's last will and testament said that Dad gave Mom the lifetime usufruct of his estate. So I told them how really important it was to document that account and put it in as a succession asset and itemize everything in that account because if it was left how it was then when Mom dies in the future it was all going to be in Mom's estate. This could be a lot of unnecessary estate tax creating a large estate for Mom. However, if we document everything correctly now by documenting what Dad's estate was that Mom had the usufruct of Dad's half of the community property, then those things that Mom had the usufruct of won't be counted as part of her estate for estate tax purposes when she dies. A lot of financial institutions just let Mom put everything in her name, but it's really important for estate tax avoidance purposes to document what's in the estate of the first spouse to die so that it gets excluded from the estate of the surviving spouse. So make sure you take care of all those things.