Chances are, you’ve heard the term “succession” before. You probably figured it was just legal jargon, and you didn’t really need to understand what it means. But now you’ve recently lost a loved one, and everyone is mentioning succession or probate. You’re not alone.
The Louisiana succession process is a complex one. In this article, we’ll provide an overview of succession and how it works under Louisiana law. However, it’s always best to seek the advice of an experienced Louisiana succession attorney to ensure the process goes smoothly.
What is succession?
The term succession in Louisiana refers to the legal process of transferring a deceased person’s property and assets to the rightful party. A deceased person is referred to as a decedent in legal terms.
In other states, succession is referred to as probate. Additionally, the laws and probate process differ from those in Louisiana.
Probate and succession both involve a series of steps. These include identifying the deceased person’s assets and the appointment of a succession representative, known as an executor or administrator.
In addition, it involves paying any outstanding debts and taxes, and the distribution of the remaining property to heirs and legatees.
Defining heirs and legatees
In Louisiana, the person that receives the deceased’s estate assets falls into one of two categories.
An heir is a person who inherits a deceased person’s property when that person did not leave a will, or intestate. An heir is usually a family member or descendant of the deceased person.
A legatee does not have to be a family member or have any relation to the deceased person. They become a legatee because the deceased had a will, which is known as testate. The legatee is designated to receive a portion of a deceased person’s property.
Determining the Type of Succession
If you’ve lost a loved one you need to know where to begin. The first step should be determining if they had a will and estate plan in place.
In Louisiana, there are different types of successions. One that does not require court oversight and other options that do require court oversight.
Testate Succession in Louisiana
The word testate means having left a will at death. If the decedent died leaving a valid will, testate succession is the process in which property is distributed.
In other words, it is the process of carrying out the wishes or instructions left by a loved one. Specifically regarding how their property should be distributed after death.
Even if your loved one left a will there are certain requirements that must be met. This is in order to ensure the will is actually valid.
You will need a court proceeding to confirm the will meets Louisiana legal requirements. And additionally to place the correct people in possession of your loved one’s property.
The process is far from simple, and it is recommended that you engage a Louisiana succession attorney to assist with handling a testate succession.
Intestate Succession in Louisiana
The term intestate means one who has died without leaving a valid will. If your loved one died without leaving a valid will you would likely need an intestate succession.
Intestate succession refers to the legal process of distributing a decedent’s assets and property who’ve died without a valid will. The process is governed by the Louisiana Civil Code and typically involves several steps.
In the case of an intestate succession, Louisiana has laws to determine how the decedent’s property would be distributed. In general, these laws direct the property to be distributed among your loved one’s closest relatives.
Certain priority is given, depending on the varying circumstances outlined below:
- Married with no children: The spouse will inherit the property co-owned with his or her spouse, known as community property. Any property considered separate property will go to his or her siblings. Additionally, the right of use, known as usufruct, will be given to his or her parents.
- Married with children: The surviving spouse will take ownership of his or her portion of the community property. The decedent’s community portion and separate property will go to his or her children. In this instance, the usufruct of the community portion is given to the surviving spouse.
- Single and no children: The property will be distributed to his or her siblings, giving usufruct to his or her parents.
- Single with Children: The children will inherit their parent’s property.
If this seems all a bit complicated, that’s because it is. That’s why it’s important to work with an experienced attorney familiar with Louisiana intestacy laws. As your legal representative, they will guide you through the process and protect yours and your family’s interests.
What constitutes a valid will in Louisiana?
There are two types of will in Louisiana, notarial and olographic, which is known as holographic in other states. This is what you need to know about each:
- Notarial will: A notarial will is a traditional type of will. It requires the testator’s signature, a notary, and two witnesses. Additionally, it must be declared as the testator’s will, signed on each page, and include provisions for individuals with disabilities.
- Olographic will: Olographic wills are handwritten by the testator and must include a date and signature. Fill-in forms or typewritten wills are invalid. Two witnesses must testify that the testator wrote the will.
To ensure that all provisions are met, you should seek the help of an experienced and qualified Louisiana succession attorney.
Opening a Succession
In most cases, the process includes opening a succession proceeding with the district court. This includes filing a petition with the district court.
If your loved one died testate, they likely designated the succession representative in the will. This person would serve as the executor. If your loved one does not leave a will, the court will appoint someone to serve as the administrator.
Administrators and executors serve very similar purposes. They will work with the court to identify the closest living relatives of the deceased person. This is who will be entitled to inherit the property and assets.
Once the decedent’s heirs are identified, the administrator will inventory and value the deceased person’s assets. These include any real estate, bank accounts, investments, life insurance proceeds and personal property.
The administrator will also be responsible for paying off any outstanding debts and taxes owed by the deceased person.
Finally, the remaining property and assets will be distributed to the heirs according to the rules of intestate succession. This process can be complex and may involve disputes among potential heirs.
Again, it must be stressed that the Louisiana succession process can be complicated. You should enlist the legal services of an experienced attorney and not try to handle this process on your own.
Forced Heirship in Louisiana
Forced heirship in Louisiana mandates that under certain circumstances a portion of a decedent’s estate must be left to their descendants. As a result, the children or grandchildren are called forced heirs, even if the person’s will says otherwise.
This rule is unique to Louisiana. It exists to ensure that certain family members are provided for after the death of a loved one.
Who are forced heirs?
In Louisiana, there are two categories of forced heirs: those under the age of 24 and those who are permanently disabled. The percentage of the estate that must be left to forced heirs depends on the number of forced heirs.
What is the purpose of forced heirship?
Forced heirship exists to safeguard the rights of descendants who may be disinherited, leaving them unable to care for themselves. However, certain circumstances may reduce or even eliminate the forced portion of the estate. For instance, if the forced heir has been convicted of a serious crime against the deceased person.
Navigating Forced Heirship
Forced heirship can be complicated, and it is important to seek guidance from an experienced legal representative. It is essential to understand your rights and obligations under Louisiana’s civil code.
How a Louisiana Succession Attorney Can Help
At this point, you’ve probably realized that there are several factors to consider when it comes to succession in Louisiana. From testate versus intestate, to forced heirship claims, there’s a lot that needs to be understood.
That’s why it’s so important to seek the assistance of an experienced attorney to help you along the way.
First of all, an attorney can help you understand the process and your rights as an heir or legatee. They can also explain how the succession will impact your taxes and any ongoing legal obligations. Such as real estate or business interests you may inherit.
Secondly, they can help you identify and locate all assets belonging to your loved one. This can be challenging, especially if he or she has multiple bank accounts, investments, and real estate holdings.
Thirdly, they’ll help complete the process efficiently and correctly. They will make certain that all the necessary documents are filed correctly and that all legal requirements are met. This can help you avoid delays and potential legal problems down the road.
Finally, they can help you resolve any disputes that may arise during the process. Heirs or legatees may disagree about the distribution of assets, or creditors may challenge the debts. Navigating these conflicts and safeguarding your interests can be achieved with the assistance of an attorney.
We want to help
The succession process in Louisiana can be complex and overwhelming. Especially during a difficult time like losing a loved one. Don’t go it alone.
At the Arena Collective, we understand the challenges that come with navigating succession. We are here to provide guidance and support throughout the process. Our experienced attorneys are here to help you ensure proper distribution of your loved one’s assets.
Contact us today to learn more about how we can assist you with estate planning, succession, and related legal matters.