Navigating the Succession Process
The death of a loved one brings a number of complex legal matters for the surviving family member, one of which includes succession and estate administration. Below is a general overview of successions in Louisiana.
In Louisiana, a succession is the process of transferring legal title to all of the property owned by the decedent at the time of death which includes both immovable (land, house) and movable (cash, personal belongings, etc.) property to the decedent’s legatees or heirs who have the right to take possession and ownership of the property after complying with Louisiana law.
There are two types of successions in Louisiana:
A testate succession occurs when a person dies leaving behind a last will and testament. A person who inherits under a testament is called a legatee. The property in a testate succession is transferred to the legatees by filing the original testament with the court in a process called probate asking the court to recognize the validity of the testament. Once the testament is probated, the legatees then file pleadings with the court to be placed in possession of the decedent’s property in accordance with provision of the testament.
An intestate succession occurs when a person dies without leaving a last will and testament or the last will and testament is deemed invalid under Louisiana law. A person inheriting under Louisiana laws of intestate successions is referred to as an heir. Heirs are placed in possession of the decedent’s property by petitioning the court for recognition as the decedent’s legal heir and therefore entitled to inherit property owned by the decedent at the time of death.
Successions can be further categorized as those placed under the authority of a court appointed administration and those for which no administration is necessary. If no administration of the decedent’s estate is required, heirs and/or legatees may be placed in possession of the estate property by petitioning to the court for a judgment recognizing their entitlement to possession. These types of successions can be completed relatively quickly and with contained costs. In contrast, successions under court administration are typically more complex and carry increased costs.
Successions are one of the most subtly complex areas of legal practice in Louisiana. On its face, it looks simple to the unknowing attorney; however, specific legal skill, knowledge and acumen are required to correctly manage successions especially when passing title to a house or land owned by the decedent. As title attorneys, we pay special attention to ensure that title to property sold from a decedent’s estate or passed directly to a decedent’s heirs and legatees is clear and merchantable once the succession is finalized.
If your family member has passed owning an interest in a house or land for which you are trying to sell, we welcome the opportunity to consult with you about succession options.