In Louisiana, probate is known as succession. A succession legally transfers property ownership from the person who died (the decedent) to the person who will own the property next (the heirs). However, succession isn’t always required.
Generally, a decedent’s estate goes through succession or probate in Louisiana if the estate is worth $125,000 or more, regardless of whether the decedent died with a will (testate) or without a will (intestate). The value of the estate is different from the value of the decedent’s assets. Therefore, one of the first questions you need answered is what property is included in your loved one’s estate.
What’s Included in a Louisiana Estate?
Some types of property are not included in the succession estate. Specifically, the following types of property pass outside of the probate process regardless of their amounts:
- Retirement accounts with named beneficiaries. These accounts include 401(k)s, 403(b)s, and IRAs.
- Life insurance policies. Like retirement accounts, life insurance policies have named beneficiaries, and the life insurance proceeds pass to the beneficiaries outside of the succession process.
- Some bank accounts. Joint bank accounts and bank accounts with payable on death (POD) or transfer on death (TOD) designations pass outside of probate.
- Property owned in joint tenancy. Property that is jointly owned passes to the surviving owner without having to go through the succession process.
- Revocable trusts. Property held in revocable or living trusts passes to the trust’s beneficiaries without going through succession.
These types of assets are not included in a will and are not subject to Louisiana intestacy laws.
Other assets will pass through succession if the total value of the succession property is more than $125,000 or an exception applies that requires the estate to go through succession. Your Louisiana succession lawyer will identify and value the property included in your loved one’s estate and advise you of your legal options.
What to Do If an Estate Requires Probate
If a succession is required, there are several things you can do to help make the process as smooth as possible. For example, you can prepare for succession by:
- Making a list of everyone who may be involved in the succession process. Your list may include potential debtors, potential people or organizations included in your loved one’s will, and potential intestate heirs.
- Making a list of all known assets and debts. This list should include all known personal property, financial accounts, real estate, mortgages, loans, and other debts.
- Locating the will. You will need an original will, if it exists. The will may be a notarial will or an olographic will. If there is no will, the property will pass according to Louisiana’s laws of intestacy.
- Contacting a Louisiana succession attorney. A succession lawyer can determine if a succession is required and handle all aspects of the process.
If a succession is required, your lawyer will consider all of your legal options and provide you with cost-effective and efficient options to complete the probate process.
Avoid Costly and Time-Consuming Probate Mistakes
Your goal is to transfer property ownership as efficiently as possible. However, problems may delay or derail the probate process. For example, a succession may stop or be delayed if:
- There is a question about the existence or validity of a will
- An heir or potential heir objects to the will
- The executor fails to do their job or abuses their power
- There is a dispute over the value of assets or debts
Each year, we handle hundreds of successions, and we are here to help you and your family with your probate needs. Our goal is to make sure that everything goes smoothly and that property passes and debts are paid according to Louisiana law. To find out more about how we may be able to help you through the probate process with as little stress as possible, please complete our online contact form, or call us today!