If you are reading this article, you likely have questions and concerns about the succession process in Louisiana. If you’ve recently lost a loved one, the succession process can be difficult and it is highly recommended that you speak with an attorney that specializes in Louisiana succession law.
You may or may not be required to go through the succession process in Louisiana depending on the facts of your situation. You will have to do some homework if you are planning on filing a Louisiana succession without an attorney.
You will likely have to do some research to determine if you must file a succession or if there are other alternatives available to you. First, did the deceased own property in Louisiana? This includes immovable property such as a home or camp, as well as movable property such as vehicles, bank accounts, etc. If the deceased owned property in another state, you may be required to file a succession there instead of Louisiana. For example, if your loved one owned most of his or her property in another state, but had a few items here, then you may need to file in both states. If the decedent did NOT own assets that are required to go through succession proceedings, then you don’t have to file a succession in Louisiana.
It should be noted that not all property is considered succession assets in Louisiana. There are property types that do not have to be included in a succession and if that is all the individual owned, then there is no need for a succession. These properties include IRAs or Individual Retirement Accounts, life insurance policies, annuities, some types of investments, etc. These types of assets usually designate a beneficiary and the property will be passed on to the chosen beneficiary. The State of Louisiana recognizes these as non-probate assets and do not go into a succession. If your loved one’s estate included only these types of assets, then you should not have to go through the succession process. As always, you should speak with a Louisiana succession attorney to determine which property can avoid probate or a succession.
It’s important to gather as much information you can regarding the decedent’s assets and property before filing a succession because you may not need to. Collect paperwork on property as soon as you can so that it doesn’t get lost or misplaced. You can spend a lot of time trying to track down lost documents that are needed for the succession.
Alternatives to the Louisiana Succession Process
Not all estates will have to go through the succession process through the court system. The State of Louisiana recognizes multiple alternatives to the court succession process. They don’t apply to everyone, but can help you avoid filing a succession if you quality.
Small Succession by Affidavit
You can transfer assets of a small succession by utilizing the small succession by affidavit without having to go to court. This covers successions under the $75,000 threshold and can be used for estates in Louisiana that are at or below $75,000. If the estate exceeds that amount, then you will not be able to use the Louisiana Small Estate Affidavit and will have to file through the court system. If the estate doesn’t qualify for the Affidavit of Small Succession, that still doesn’t mean that you will have a court hearing, but you will need to file through the Clerk of Court and the judge will have to sign the judgment.
The Affidavit of Small Succession puts third parties on notice and allows them to rely on the document that’s in the public record. This must be done properly or you could have issues years later. You still may want to speak with an attorney even if the estate can be handled by affidavit to ensure that it is filed into the public record correctly.
If the decedent owned immovable property such as real estate or a home in Louisiana and still qualifies as a “small succession,” it may still be required to be filed through the court and the affidavit of small succession may be improper.
Life Insurance Proceeds Do Not Go Through the Succession Process
This is a good reason to purchase a life insurance policy if you haven’t already. You elect a beneficiary to a life insurance policy and it does not have to be included in a succession. The beneficiary only has to provide a death certificate to the company to claim the policy value. Life insurance is a great way to ensure your loved ones receive what you intended for them to own. Just be sure to update your beneficiary on your life insurance if you divorce.
IRAs or Individual Retirement Accounts Are Not Included In a Succession
IRAs are similar to life insurance policies in that you can elect a beneficiary to receive the proceeds. IRAs are not considered to be part of the succession in Louisiana and pass to whomever you elected to receive the money. These are great to have and to contribute to throughout your working years. Be sure to update the beneficiary should things in your life change because the proceeds will be paid out to your beneficiary when you die and you can’t clear it up once you’ve passed.
You Can Transfer Vehicles by an Affidavit
Louisiana law allows you to transfer the title to a vehicle by affidavit. It doesn’t matter if the individual had a valid Louisiana will or not, you can still transfer vehicles using this method. The affidavit must be signed by everyone who has some type of interest in the vehicle and sent to the Office of Motor Vehicles for processing. Once they have processed the affidavit, they will reissue the title in the name of the chosen person who received the vehicle.
Transfer of Last Wages and bank Accounts
There are a few instances where you are able to transfer money to a surviving spouse by using an affidavit and avoiding court proceedings.
- Payments of Last Wages, Sick Leave, Employment Benefits to Surviving Spouse;
- Transfer of 10k From Bank Account of Decedent;
- Bank Can Transfer up to 5K to Surviving Spouse and Heirs if No Will Present
If the assets of the decedent fall into one of the numerous categories of alternatives, no court proceedings will be required. There’s a good chance the decedent died with property outside of these alternatives and there will be some type of court proceeding to handle the estate in its entirety. This can be a complicated and lengthy process and it is recommended that you speak with an attorney who can walk you through the process and explain your options. Even if the estate qualifies for one of the alternatives to a succession, it would be wise to seek counsel of an attorney to assist you with your paperwork and affidavits.
Disclaimer: This article does not provide legal advice and you should seek out the counsel of an attorney.