What is a “Succession?” This is a common questions people have after someone passes away.
Basically, a “succession” is the legal process of dealing with the assets and liabilities left behind after someone passes. Under Louisiana law, there are different procedures that can be used to complete the succession process depending on the circumstances. These include: (1) using a small succession affidavit to transfer the assets of the decedent, (2) judicial opening of the estate in court to obtain a judgement of possession, and (3) placing the estate under court administration and appointing someone to take care of the estate.
The following is a discussion of these various procedures:
The first process to consider using is the small succession affidavit. This is the quickest and least expensive procedure to use to handle transferring assets for the estate. No court proceeding is necessary. Instead, an affidavit is prepared that includes pertinent information about the death of the decedent, the assets and obligations of the decedent, the marital and family information of the decedent, and the identity of the heirs who will inherit the decedent’s assets. This procedure however cannot be used if the decedent had a last will and testament that needs to be probated. Also, the estate must have a gross value of less than $125,000.00 in order for this procedure to be used. Finally, cooperation among all of the heirs as well as the surviving spouse is necessary to be able to handle the estate using a small succession affidavit. If any of these criteria are not met, this procedure can not be used.
When a small succession affidavit can not be used, opening the estate judicially by filing pleadings in court is usually necessary. If there is cooperation among all of the heirs, a simple possession procedure can be used to transfer the decedent’s assets to the heirs. This procedure is also used when there is a Last Will and Testament that needs to be probated. To accomplish a simple possession, legal pleadings are drafted to request a Judgement of Possession from the court recognizing the heirs of the decedent and transferring ownership of the assets to them. In most cases, no court appearance is necessary, and the pleadings are simply filed with the court and presented to the Judge for approval. Once the Judgement of Possession is issued by the court, the succession is complete and the judgement can be used to retitle assets that previously belonged to the decedent. This procedure requires cooperation amongst all of the heirs and also requires that the estate be relatively free of debt or that the heirs agree to assume the debts of the estate. Although this procedure requires court filings, it can usually be completed relatively quickly.
Finally, if the estate is complex or there is not cooperation among all of the heirs, placing the estate under court administration is usually the best option. With this procedure, pleadings are filed with the court requesting that a person be appointed to manage the estate. Once appointed, the succession representative is responsible for collecting all of the assets belonging to the estate and determining how to best to deal with them. Some assets may be sold to generate money to pay debts of the estate. In some cases assets may be sold and the money distributed to the heirs. Depending on the complexity of the estate, this process can take some time to complete. After all assets and obligations are dealt with, the estate can be closed and the succession representative is released from his or her appointment. The increased need for legal assistance makes this procedure more expensive to handle than the others discussed above.
If someone has passed away and you are trying to figure out what to do with their estate, you should seek the advice of an experience succession attorney to help determine the best legal procedure to use. Many factors go into deciding which procedure is the best to use in a given situation.
Our lawyers also help clients achieve various estate planning goals using asset protection strategies, wills, advance directives, powers of attorney, revocable living trusts, irrevocable trusts, and other legal tools.