In Louisiana, succession refers to the process of transferring a deceased person’s assets to their heirs and designated beneficiaries. While succession is sometimes straightforward, making sense of the Bayou State’s legal requirements can pose a significant challenge to otherwise “simple” estates.
Understanding Louisiana Successions
Every state has its own estate laws and civil procedures. In Louisiana, “succession” is used to refer to the probate-like process of dissolving a deceased person’s estate. However, Louisiana has a unique history, and its succession practices are unlike those of other states.
Louisiana courts employ elements of both American common law and European-inspired civil law. While the differences between succession and out-of-state probate are often minute, civil law theories like “forced heirship” can create uncommon complications.
State law provides a relatively straightforward definition of what constitutes a succession. According to Louisiana Civil Code Article 871, succession is “the transmission of the estate of the deceased to successors.” In other words, succession is the resolution of a deceased person’s remaining affairs. During a succession, the decedent’s estate representative must:
- Notify the courts of the deceased person’s death
- File a succession petition and inform heirs of proceedings
- Inventory and assess the decedent’s possessions
- Pay the estate’s creditors
- Disburse inheritances to heirs and other beneficiaries
Types of Succession
- Testate succession. If the deceased person had a last will and testament, revocable living trust, or another estate plan, their personal representative may initiate a testate succession. During a testate succession, the estate is resolved according to the decedent’s stated wishes.
- Intestate succession. If the deceased person did not have a last will and testament or another estate plan, the deceased person’s family must ask the court to appoint a personal representative and initiate an intestate succession. During an intestate succession, the estate is distributed in accordance with a pre-defined legal formula.
The Steps in Succession
- The personal representative must inform heirs, creditors, and other interested parties that succession proceedings have been initiated.
- The personal representative or their attorney must marshal and inventory the decedent’s assets.
- After marshaling and inventorying the estate assets, the representative must order any necessary appraisals.
- The personal representative must pay the estate’s creditors.
- The personal representative will distribute inheritances and ask the court to close the succession.
Succession is a time-consuming and deadline-driven process. While uncontested estates can often be resolved amicably and quickly, minor disputes and disagreements about the conditions of a will can have devastating consequences.
Estate Complications Can Be Problematic for a Succession
Since any interested party can file a challenge if they have reason to believe the will was invalid, succession cases can quickly become complicated. Even if a disinherited heir or jealous beneficiary cannot prove their claim is valid, the estate representative has a legal obligation to defend the estate from challenges. A Louisiana succession could become complicated if:
- The deceased person passed away without writing or executing a will.
- The estate is high value or contains high-value assets.
- The personal representative receives numerous creditor requests.
- The personal representative misses filing deadlines or fails to comply with other court requirements.
- Family members disagree with the decedent’s inheritance decisions.
Over time, the costs of litigating a succession challenge can rise, draining the estate’s resources and depriving other heirs of their share in an inheritance.
Contact a Louisiana Succession Attorney Today
Every succession has the potential to encounter unexpected complications. An experienced Louisiana succession attorney could help you and your family protect a loved one’s legacy while ensuring that their last wishes are respected by the court.
Scott Vicknair Law has spent years helping Louisianans of all backgrounds administer estates. Please call us at 504-264-1057 to schedule your initial consultation, and begin exploring your options for a peaceful succession.