Dealing with the probate process can be a daunting task, especially during emotionally challenging times. In Louisiana, understanding the key steps involved in probate administration is essential for individuals who have lost a loved one and are navigating the distribution of their estate. This article aims to shed light on the probate process in Louisiana, guiding readers through the key steps involved in handling a loved one’s estate after death.
Step 1: Determining the Best Procedure to Handle the Estate
Successions come in many different shapes and forms. There are many different variables that need to be considered in order determine the most cost efficient and quickest way to handle the estate. Selecting the correct procedure from the beginning can save you a lot of time and money.
In Louisiana, some smaller successions can be completely handled with no court involvement. When court involvement is needed, there are different procedures to select from that can be used to handle the estate. The choice of procedure greatly depends on the level of cooperation among the heirs and the goals and issues that need to be dealt with in connection with the estate. Click this link for our article with more information on the different types of probate procedures in Louisiana.
The advice of an experienced probate and estate attorney is extremely valuable when sorting through these choices and picking the best strategy to use to handle the estate.
Step 2: Collecting Information About the Estate
After selecting the best procedure for handling the estate, the next step will be to collect all the information that is necessary to draft the legal paperwork for the estate. Sometimes this information is readily available, but it is quite often the case that this information must be obtained from other places and people.
Some of the key information that will be needed includes the (1) identification of family members of the decedent, (2) marital history of the decedent, (3) itemization and valuation of assets owned by the decedent, (4) copies of title documents for real estate and vehicles, and (5) information on any liabilities or claims against the decedent. It is important that the information collected be accurate and verified whenever possible.
Depending on the nature of the issues involved in the estate, other information may be necessary. If you are working with an experienced probate and estate attorney, they will often assist and help you with collecting the information needed.
Step 3: Drafting and Preparation of Legal Pleadings
Once all the information is collected and verified, the process begins to draft the paperwork that will be necessary to handle the estate. This is usually done by legal professionals that are specifically trained in estate law. It is important to work with someone with experience because mistakes and errors at this step can result in unnecessary expenses and time delays for the estate.
After the pleadings are drafted and finalized, the documents will need to be signed by the heirs. This usually takes place at the lawyer’s office. For people living out of state or who cannot make it into the office, the documents are mailed to them for signature and then returned to the attorney’s office. Once received, the fully signed pleadings are processed and prepared for filing with the court.
Step 4: Initiating the Probate Process
The official probate case starts with the filing of the legal pleadings with the court. The probate case will be assigned to a judge in the court who will oversee the case. Although it varies depending on what probate procedure is being followed, typically the judge rules on many preliminary issues as soon as the case is assigned to their section. This may include ruling on the validity of a last will and testament, appointing who will be the executor of the estate, determining whether a security or a bond will need to be posted by the executor, and issuing letters of administration to the executor to give them the legal power to handle the estate.
For uncontested estates that do not require administration, the judge may issue a judgment of possession to transfer the assets of the estate directly to the heirs. If this is done, the heirs become the owners of those assets and the succession is complete relative to those assets.
Step 5: Administering the Estate
If administration of the estate is needed, the executor/administrator takes on the duty of dealing with the assets and liabilities of the estate. This can include closing bank accounts, selling real estate and other assets, and paying the liabilities of the estate. This is usually the most time-consuming part of the estate process and the duration to complete will greatly depend on what needs to be done.
The guidance and assistance of an experienced probate and estate attorney is extremely valuable to navigate through this process. Many actions by the executor/administrator require court approval before they can be done. For example, the process for selling real estate may require multiple legal notices to be published in newspapers and petitioning the court for approval of the sale. The same is true for paying estate liabilities. Court approval is often needed before estate funds can be used to pay for things.
It is important to know and follow the legal rules that apply to the administration process. Mistakes can be costly.
Step 6: Closing the Estate
After the administration of the estate is complete, it is time to close the estate. There are very specific legal steps that need to be taken to close the estate depending on what procedure is being used. These steps may include the executor/administrator filing an accounting of what was done during administration, filing of a motion to pay any final remaining expenses, and filing a motion asking the judge for permission to distribute the remaining assets to the heirs.
If there are any challenges by heirs to actions taken by the executor/administrator, these challenges may need to be scheduled for hearings with the judge for resolution. These types of challenges can significantly delay the time to close the estate and for the heirs to receive a distribution.
Step 7: Finalizing and Distributing Assets to Beneficiaries
Once any challenges are resolved and the closure of the estate is approved by the judge, the executor/administrator can proceed with the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries as outlined in the will or according to Louisiana's intestate succession laws. Click this link for our article with more information on who inherits under Louisiana’s intestate succession laws. After everything is distributed, the executor/administrator can be officially discharged from their duties.
As stated above, successions come in many different shapes and forms. There may be many other issues that may come up that are unique to the estate you are handling. Working with an experienced succession and estate attorney can make the process much easier to successfully complete.
The probate process in Louisiana involves several key steps that must be carefully navigated to ensure a smooth and efficient distribution of assets. From initially determining the best procedure and strategy to use, to closing out the estate, each step requires attention to detail and adherence to legal requirements.
By understanding these key steps, individuals facing the probate process in Louisiana can be better prepared to handle the complexities involved. Seeking legal advice from an experienced probate attorney can provide invaluable guidance and support throughout the probate journey, helping families find closure and peace of mind during these difficult times.