With the right advice and guidance, the Succession process can be a relatively pain-free exercise.

With the right advice and guidance, the Succession process can be a relatively pain-free exercise.

We are fortunate in Louisiana to have a very straightforward, efficient and (typically) affordable probate (aka Succession) process. Yet, there are professionals on the internet and elsewhere that continue to market unnecessarily complicated solutions for Estate Planning by utilizing fear of the unknown Succession process, which is frankly unconscionable. In fact, the Louisiana inheritance taxes have been repealed, and very few clients even need to file a Federal Estate Tax Return.

What Does The Louisiana Succession Process Say?

In Louisiana, an heir does not have the legal right to possess, sell or encumber property left by the deceased without completion of a Succession. Moreover, a Succession is also required to carry out the deceased's intentions pertaining to child guardianship or testamentary trusts for his/her survivors. When a loved one does pass away, heirs or agents should promptly search to determine whether the deceased left a will together with important papers so that the attorney has enough information to give some preliminary advice on how to proceed. Usually, those papers are left in a safe, safe deposit box or other secure location.

Once that search has been concluded, you should contact an attorney on how to proceed.

In Louisiana, a Succession can be accomplished in one of four methods:

  1. The least expensive route for Succession completion is an Affidavit of Small Succession. An Affidavit is available where the estate of the deceased is (a) worth less than $75,000; (b) either the deceased died a Louisiana domiciliary without leaving a will (aka died intestate) or died with a will (aka died testate) while domiciled in another state as long as that will was probated; and (c) the deceased's sole heirs are a surviving spouse, descendants, ascendants, siblings, children of siblings and/or beneficiaries of the deceased pursuant to a will probated in another state. The Affidavit can be used even if real estate comprises a portion of the deceased's estate. A certified death certificate will be necessary to complete the Affidavit process. The Affidavit and certificate are filed in the conveyance records of the parish where the deceased's property is located.
  2. Another vehicle for is a Succession without Administration or Independent Administration. This process is available whether the deceased left a will or not. This method may be used where the estate is obviously solvent, where the heirs are all in agreement and/or where the deceased left a will allowing for Independent Administration. Filings with the proper Louisiana Court (including a certified death certificate) are required; however, there are no hearings for heirs to attend.
  3. The most complex type of probate that potentially involves higher cost and substantial time to complete is the Succession with Administration. This process is also available whether the deceased left a will or not. There are typically one or more hearings requiring testimony of interested parties during this process. Some examples of why an administered succession is necessary include, but are not limited to, questions regarding:
    • Whether a testament is valid.
    • Whether a testament was revoked by the deceased prior to his death.
    • Whether the decedent was solvent at the time he died.
    • If the decedent was clearly insolvent and assets he owned must be sold and the proceeds paid to his creditors.
    • When there is a challenge by a forced heir that he has not received that portion of the assets of the decedent that is required by law.
    • If there are absent heirs.
    • If it is necessary to determine which heirs inherit what property.
  4. Where a deceased had a probate completed in a state other than Louisiana first, but the deceased also owns property in Louisiana, an Ancillary Succession will be necessary. This process is mandatory because a Louisiana Court must sign off on the probate completed in another state. In addition to certain pleadings prepared by our office, an exemplified copy of the probate from the other state together with a certified death certificate will be needed to complete this process.