When someone passes away in Louisiana and leaves assets and property to be passed on to heirs, it is the job of the executor of the Last Will & Testament to administer the estate, but what does this mean exactly? We explain what your role is if you are appointed as the executor of a friend’s or family member’s estate, and how a succession attorney can help you through the process.
A Last Will and Testament Should Name an Executor
When your friend or loved one wrote her testament, she may have asked you if you would be willing to be the executor. If so, you may be aware of at least some of the duties you will have to fulfill. In many cases, however, people do not inform their chosen executor that they have named them in their will, so it comes as a surprise when they are notified of their role after the person’s death.
Even if there was no testament, the estate would still need an administrator and you may be asked to take on the role, or you may volunteer for it. However you came to be the executor of an estate, you need to understand what your role is.
What You Will Have to Do as an Estate Administrator
In Louisiana, the executor of an estate is responsible for all aspects of settling the estate. In essence, he or she takes the place of the deceased until the assets have been distributed and the estate has been closed. Among many specific tasks, the executor is responsible for:
- Locating the testament and filing it with the court to begin the succession process
- Obtaining copies of the death certificate to send to banks, creditors, and government agencies, such as the Veterans Administration or Social Security, to stop benefits
- Setting up a new bank account in the name of the estate to hold earnings and pay bills
- Paying bills, such as a mortgage or taxes
- Protecting assets for the benefit of the heirs of the estate
- Taking inventory of all property and assets belonging to the estate
- Transferring titles of ownership to heirs
- Selling assets to distribute the proceeds to heirs
- Appearing in court if any aspect of the will is challenged
As an executor in Louisiana, you also have certain protections, including the following:
- You can elect not to accept the position, and you may resign at any point if the job becomes unmanageable.
- You are not responsible for estate debt and do not have to pay any estate expenses out of your own pocket.
- You are entitled to a fee from the estate of 2 ½ percent of the gross estate, or an amount specified in the testament.
- You may work with a succession attorney to complete the necessary tasks.
For your own peace of mind and protection, it is a good idea to consult an attorney before taking on what could turn in to a complicated role.
What If There Is No Testament?
If a person dies without a will, anyone can apply to be the administrator of the estate, including the spouse, an heir, or even a creditor. The administrator will be required to take an oath and post a bond equal to 125 percent of the value of the estate to ensure that he or she acts in a responsible manner with the assets of the estate. While state law will determine who inherits what from the estate, the administrator will have duties similar to those of an executor for an estate with a will.
Challenging an Executor or Administrator
If you are an heir to an estate and believe that the executor is not acting in the interest of the estate, you may take action to have him removed and to force repayment of any assets you believe he has stolen or squandered. The succession litigation attorneys at Scott | Vicknair Law can help you determine if the executor or administrator has broken the law and what can be done to hold him accountable.
Our Experienced Succession Attorneys Can Help
If you are an executor to a Louisiana estate—or need to challenge an executor or administrator—contact our New Orleans succession team to find out how we can help you. Successions are all we do, and we have seen it all. Do not hesitate to contact us with questions!