First off, It is important to determine whether the decedent owned property that could require a succession in Louisiana. If only some assets are located in Louisiana but the bulk of the estate is in another state, a Louisiana ancillary probate may be appropriate. If all of the decedent’s property is located in another state, then it may be more appropriate to open the estate proceeding in that state.
If the decedent didn’t own any succession assets, then no estate proceeding will be required. Certain types of assets are not considered part of a Louisiana succession. These “non-probate” assets would include annuities, IRAs, life insurance policies, and qualified retirement plans with named beneficiaries. If the estate consists exclusively of non-succession assets, a succession should not be required.
What Assets Can Be Transferred Without A Succession?
Louisiana law allows the transfer of the assets of a small succession by affidavit, without a formal court proceeding (in this context, “small” meaning less than $125,000). The small succession law allows third parties to rely on the affidavit to transfer small succession assets, but it does not require them to do so. As a practical matter, a court proceeding is often required even if the succession could technically qualify as a small succession.
Louisiana law also allows the transfer of the title to a decedent’s automobile by affidavit. The transfer of an automobile by affidavit is a transfer by everyone who has an interest in the automobile to one person. The affidavit must be signed by everyone with an interest in the automobile and submitted to the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles.
Transfer of bank accounts and last wages come up in three circumstances:
Transfer of Bank Accounts to Surviving Spouse – Up to $10,000 from a decedent’s bank account can be transferred to his or her surviving spouse with an affidavit, without any court proceeding. [La. Rev. Stat. § 9:1513-1514]
- Payment of Wages and Certain Employment Benefits to Surviving Spouse – Louisiana law allows an employer to pay the surviving spouse of a deceased employee any wages, sick leave, annual leave, or other benefits of up to $6,000. This method is not available if a divorce proceeding has been instituted. [La. Rev. Stat. § 9:1515]
- Transfer of Small Deposits to Spouse or Heirs – If the decedent did not leave a Will, Louisiana law allows a bank to transfer up to $5,000 to the decedent’s spouse and heirs at law. The spouse and heirs must provide the bank with an affidavit establishing jurisdiction, relationship, and intestacy. [La. Rev. Stat. § 6:315.1]
If a deceased person’s estate cannot be transferred using one of the alternatives to Louisiana successions, then it will be necessary to open a judicial succession in Louisiana.
What Is The Procedure For A Succession?
Fortunately, Louisiana’s succession process is not as complicated as the probate process in some other states. Most successions in Louisiana fall into one of two categories: Succession Without Administration and Succession With Full Administration.
The most common form of Louisiana succession is a Succession Without Administration (sometimes referred to as a “Simple Putting in Possession”). In this type of succession, no succession representative (also called a personal representative or executor) is appointed and no administration is necessary. After the estate is filed with the court, the succession attorney obtains a Judgment of Possession transferring title to the decedent’s assets.
If the decedent had a valid Last Will and Testament, the estate will be referred to as a testate estate. Formal administration is not required for testate estates if all of the following conditions are satisfied:
- All of the people named in the will (this group of people are called legatees) are either competent or acting through their qualified legal representatives;
- All of the competent general and universal legatees (those who inherit after all specific gifts have been paid out) accept the succession unconditionally; and
- None of the creditors of the succession has demanded an administrative hearing.
If the decedent died without a Last Will and Testament, he or she is said to have died intestate and the estate assets will be distributed as provided by Louisiana intestate law. In that case, full administration of the estate will not be required the succession is “relatively free of debt” and all required parties request that the succession be without administration.
It’s important that you have the best legal guidance you can receive during this difficult time. Greenwald Law Firm handles large and small successions throughout Louisiana, helping bereaved family and friends through the sensitive process of estate inheritance, following the loss of a loved one. Call our experienced successions lawyer in Shreveport, LA today for a free legal consultation.