When someone passes away, they often leave behind bank accounts, vehicles, and property that must be dealt with by their family. If you have tried to go to a bank to close a decedent’s bank account or contacted a realtor to try to sell real estate, you have probably been told that you need to do a “succession” before they can help you.

To make sure a succession gets done right the first time in the quickest way possible, you should work with an experienced succession attorney who handles these issues every day. Whether you are handling a new estate, trying to close an estate that has been dragging along in court, or are dealing with problems after the succession process has concluded, the estate and probate team at SVHC Law, Estate & Probate Division is here to help you through the process.  

What Is a Succession in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, a succession is simply the process of transferring assets from someone who has passed away to their heirs. The term “probate” is often used interchangeably with the term “succession.” 

When a loved one dies in Louisiana, there are many questions that must be answered to figure out the best way to complete a succession. The first question to answer is whether there is a valid Last Will and Testament. If the decedent had a valid testament, that document will need to be analyzed to determine who will inherit from the decedent. There are many rules that apply to interpreting a testament and figuring out who gets what from the estate, so it is important to involve an attorney in the process.

Additional questions that need to be answered include the following:

  • Who are the heirs, and are they cooperative?
  • What are the assets, and are they co-owned with anyone else?
  • Are there any creditors or liabilities that need to be paid?
  • Do you want to keep or sell the assets and property?
  • Will an administration of the estate be needed, or can it be opened and closed quickly?

Getting started down the right path and avoiding initial mistakes will make a big difference in preventing the succession from becoming complicated and time-consuming.

What if the Decedent Didn’t Leave a Will?

When there is no Last Will and Testament, the default rules under Louisiana law will apply to determine inheritance rights. To figure out how these default rules will apply to an estate, you need to answer the following questions: 

  • Is there a surviving spouse?
  • Did the decedent have children?
  • Are the assets co-owned as community property with the surviving spouse? 
  • Has any child of the decedent also passed away?
  • Will all the heirs cooperate in the process?

Once you figure out who will inherit from the decedent, the next step is to determine the best legal procedure to use to complete the succession. A succession can be handled in multiple ways. However, some of these options will take you on a long, frustrating, and expensive journey. To figure out the quickest and easiest path, you should work with an experienced succession and probate attorney. 

Options for Succession Procedures 

The best way to complete a succession is to start with the end in mind. By figuring out the end goal you want to accomplish—such as keeping or selling estate assets—and working backward from that goal, procedural choices can be made to select the quickest and easiest path for handling the succession. 

Possible legal procedures for handling a succession in Louisiana include:

  • Outside of court, non-judicial, Small Succession procedure
  • In court, open and close, Simple Possession procedure
  • Opening the succession and placing it under “administration” 
  • Opening multiple successions for multiple generations in the same legal procedure

Generally, the more cooperation there is between the heirs, the quicker and less expensive the succession process will be. The opposite is also true. If cooperation is lacking, you will have fewer options available, and time and expense will increase. When a serious dispute arises, you may have to litigate the estate.

Our Succession & Probate Attorneys Are Here to Help

The succession and probate team at SVHC Law helps hundreds of families every year with succession issues, so it is likely we have seen and dealt with the situation you are facing. Let our experience work for you to make the probate process as easy and cost-effective as possible. Contact us in our New Orleans office to get started down the right path today.