In an ideal world, probate proceedings would be little more than an inconvenient formality. However, the process of dissolving an estate is often anything other than straightforward. When disputes and disagreements arise, probate can turn into a protracted, time-consuming affair.
The Most Common Reasons for Louisiana Succession Delays
When a Louisiana resident passes away, their assets, possessions, and properties could be subject to probate, the court-supervised process for:
- Identifying and gathering their assets
- Paying the deceased person’s outstanding bills
- Distributing the decedent’s possessions to their heirs and beneficiaries
Some estates can be closed without conflict or delay. However, even simple disagreements among heirs and other issues have the potential to delay proceedings for months and sometimes years.
Estate representatives have many responsibilities. Foremost among them is ensuring that creditors receive their dues and beneficiaries receive their inheritances. However, sometimes executors can’t easily locate the estate’s heirs. While the personal representative could petition the court to dissolve a missing beneficiary’s interest in the estate, they are typically required to make painstaking efforts to locate an heir, even if they cannot find their contact information.
Creditors and beneficiaries are considered “interested parties” in probate proceedings. Before an estate can be dissolved and inheritances distributed, the executor must provide interested parties with notice that probate has been initiated.
Ordinarily, providing notice is not time-consuming or difficult. However, if the executor has to send notice to a beneficiary in another state or another country—and the beneficiary must then make arrangements to travel to Louisiana—proceedings could be delayed to accommodate the far-away heir’s interests.
If the decedent held assets or owned properties in multiple states, the executor may be required to file separate petitions for probate in each jurisdiction.
If the personal representative failed to file the deceased person’s taxes, the Internal Revenue Service could file a lien against the estate. Until the lien is paid, the executor will not be able to close outstanding debts or distribute inheritances.
A creditor, beneficiary, or other interested party could file an estate challenge for a variety of reasons. For example, an heir could allege that the will is invalid because it was not signed, or because the deceased person lacked the so-called “testamentary capacity” to make estate planning decisions.
Probate litigation can decimate an estate’s resources. Since the personal representative may be compelled to draw on the estate to defend it from any legal challenges, the costs of going to court could slowly swallow the estate’s assets until there is nothing left for creditors and heirs alike.
People often name trusted loved ones as their personal representatives. However, not every dedicated, well-meaning executor has the time, energy, and mental bandwidth to oversee probate proceedings.
If an executor misses court filing deadlines, mismanages assets, or abuses their position to enrich themselves, they could jeopardize the entire estate.
Most probate misunderstandings can be resolved with the right help. If you are struggling to negotiate an unexpected delay in a Louisiana succession, an experienced estate litigation attorney could help you preserve a loved one’s legacy and protect your inheritance.
Contact a Probate Attorney Today
If you need help overcoming an unexpected delay in your Louisiana probate proceedings, please call Scott Vicknair Law, Estate and Probate Division at (504) 264-1057 to discuss your options for legal relief.