Dealing with the legal issues that accompany death is often overwhelming and confusing for those left behind. Regardless of whether the person had a will, a trust or died intestate (with no will or trust) – there is usually legal work that must be completed to pass his or her property on to those entitled to receive it. In most states, the process necessary to transfer property at death is called probate; in Louisiana, the process for transferring property for someone who died intestate or with a will, is called a Succession. Therefore, Successions are a primary focus of our practice. If someone dies with either a revocable living trust or an irrevocable trust, it is usually necessary to complete a trust administration. The attorneys in both our Baton Rouge and Lake Charles offices are certified by the Louisiana Board of Legal Specialization as Estate Administration Specialists and are very familiar with Successions and Trust Administrations. With our extensive knowledge in the areas of probate, successions, and trust administration, we can help you tackle these difficult issues. To find out more about successions and probate in Louisiana and particularly about whether we can assist you in either our Baton Rouge or Lake Charles office or via phone or email, please visit our more detailed website devoted to only successions and probate at www.mylouisianasuccession.com
Types of Successions
If someone dies in Louisiana and has property that needs to be transferred, the first step is to determine whether a succession or probate is necessary. If so, then the next step is to determine what type of succession is needed. In many cases, a small succession affidavit may be available to transfer property without the need for a court-supervised succession.
A Succession is a court proceeding where an attorney files documents with the court system asking the judge to transfer the deceased person’s (this person is usually called a decedent) property to the intestate heirs (if the decedent died without a will) or the legatees (if the decedent had a will). During your lifetime, if you want to transfer any of your property, you generally do so by signing a document making the transfer. Of course, this is no longer possible after death. Therefore, there has to be a process to make the transfer and to give third parties confidence that the people claiming ownership of the property are the rightful owners and have the right to sell or mortgage the property. During a Succession, the lawyer collects the information about the property the decedent owned and the debts he owed and prepares a petition asking the judge to sign a Judgment of Possession recognizing the heirs or legatees as the new owners of the decedent’s property. This can often be done without having to appoint an Executor or Administrator for the Succession; rather, if the judge reviews the documents and everything is in order, the judge signs the Judgement of Possession recognizing the new owners.
It is not always possible to use the simple Succession process. Sometimes, it is necessary to appoint an Executor, who is named in the will or an Administrator when the decedent dies intestate to handle estate business before the heirs or legatees are placed into ownership of the property. An administered Succession is usually necessary if there is an absent heir, if there is debt that needs to be paid or if there is property that needs to be sold by the Executor or Administrator while the Succession is under administration. In these cases, the attorney files documents with the court asking that an Executor or Administrator be appointed to handle estate business. That Executor or Administrator takes care of estate business and when that is complete, the attorney then files the documents asking the court for the Judgment of Possession putting the new owners into ownership of the decedent’s property.
There may be disputes among those involved regarding how the deceased’s property is to be distributed. This may be the result of someone dying intestate and it not being clear who is to receive property, because there is a dispute about whether property was the community or separate property of the decedent or because there is a claim the decedent lacked capacity to execute a will or was unduly influenced in doing so.
Regardless of how estate and succession litigation arises, Betty Raglin, our attorney in the Lake Charles office, has extensive experience in handling estate litigation throughout Louisiana.
Managing The Details
Many Louisiana attorneys prepare successions and do probate work, but the laws involving successions are complex and there are deadlines that, if missed, may cause your heirs to pay additional taxes. An attorney not expertly familiar with Louisiana succession law may also take more time to complete the work causing more stress to the family already grieving from the loss of a loved one. In addition, many attorneys charge a percentage of the estate to prepare a succession even though the work required to prepare the succession of a person who had $200,000 worth of assets is the same as the work required to prepare the succession of a person who had $1 million in assets.
Helping You Through It
At Legacy Estate & Elder Law of Louisiana, LLC, the goal of the members of our succession and probate team is to ensure we prepare the necessary Louisiana succession documents in a timely manner and at a reasonable fee. We also understand that our clients who come to see us to prepare their loved one’s successions are often still grieving and we strive to treat those clients with extra care. This is why our team is beside you throughout the process to answer your questions and assist you in completing the necessary legal matters.