In Louisiana, probate law is called succession law. The terms succession and estate are often used interchangeably to refer to the property that the decedent owned at death. If your family has experienced the loss of a family member, our law firm can assist you with this legal process that occurs when a loved one passes away.
We sometimes find grieving families either have never heard of or are unfamiliar with the procedures for opening a succession. They are simply told by the bank, mortgage company, or another attorney that they have to “open a succession” before they can have access to the deceased’s bank account, obtain a home improvement loan, or cash the deceased’s settlement check.
What is a Succession?
Succession is the transmission of the deceased’s estate or rights to his successors. The estate of the deceased includes the property, rights, and obligations that he had at death. The estate also includes all rights and obligations that have accrued since death. A succession must be opened and completed in order to exercise important legal rights as to the deceased’s property.
Why is it Important to Open a Succession?
A succession is opened to get legal possession of immovable and movable property and to gain access to bank accounts, pensions, or insurance proceeds for the successors. The legal possession of immovable property that results from a succession will give the successors the power to sell the property, refinance, and qualify for the homestead exemption.
When Should a Succession be Opened?
A succession should be opened as soon as practicable after the decedent’s death. Sometimes, it is necessary to immediately open successions to use the decedent’s bank accounts or assets to pay funeral or medical bills.
If you delay in opening a succession, this may cause problems. Sometimes, successors may wait many years to open a succession. As a result, they can run into problems such as lost documents or wills or face tax sales of homes for unpaid taxes. Also, waiting too many years to open a succession may make a succession more complicated and expensive. This is especially true with the passing of generations when the co-heirs lose contact with each other or die.
Small and Large Successions
The complexity of a succession depends on the value and type of property involved, the decedent’s debts, and whether there is conflict among family members. If the gross value of the estate at the decedent’s death is less than $75,000, it may be possible to complete the transfer of property by recording an affidavit in the public records, rather than filing a court succession.
Steps to Take With a Will
If your loved one had a Will, the family will go through a process called Probate or Testate Succession. If the decedent died testate, the will governs who inherits the decedent’s estate, assuming the will is valid. This checklist outlines the steps to take when a loved one passes away with a Will.
Steps to Take Without a Will
Intestate successions occur when the decedent dies without a will, the will is invalid in whole or in part, or the will does not dispose of all of the decedent’s property. When the succession is intestate, the Louisiana Civil Code determines who inherits the decedent’s estate. Determining who inherits property in an intestate succession involves determining whether the property itself is community or separate under Louisiana law. If you have questions about probate, contact Morrison Law Group, PLC online or call (504) 831-2348 for a free consultation.
Steps to Take with a Living Trust
If your loved one had a Living Trust, the family will go through a process called Trust Administration. This checklist outlines the steps to take when a loved one passes away with a Trust.
Do not retitle any assets before speaking with a qualified estate planning attorney. That meeting should take place approximately two weeks after your loved one has passed.