Benefits of Probate (Succession)


The state of Louisiana handles estates of deceased persons very differently than other states. Louisiana has very strict laws that control exactly where property goes when someone dies. Succession is a court-supervised process where a deceased person's estate is settled. By settling, this means that all debts, claims and taxes against the estate are paid and the remaining assets are distributed among the rightful beneficiaries or heirs. Louisiana refers to this process as succession, whereas other states call it probate.

As a beneficiary, it may be disconcerting to hear that your inheritance will be tied up in succession for months, or maybe even a year or longer. However, succession is a necessary process to ensure that the decedent's property is distributed according to the directions set forth in the will. Or, if there was no will, the court needs to ensure that the decedent's property is distributed according to Louisiana's laws of intestate succession (dying without a will).

One of the biggest factors in how an estate is settled is whether or not there is a will. Without a will, you have no control over how your property is distributed. For example, if a married person dies without a will, their spouse will have no claim to their separate property, which is essentially property that was owned before the marriage, or property that was gifted to or inherited by the deceased spouse. In the absence of a will, that separate property would go to the decedent's children or their nearest blood relatives.

Not all property goes through succession in Louisiana. Normally, any type of property that has a beneficiary designation such as an IRA or a 401(k) would not have to go through succession and would not be subject to inheritance taxes.

There are two types of successions in Louisiana: intestate and testate. An intestate succession is one where the person died without a will and a testate succession is one where the person died with a will. Without a will, the estate is divided in strict accordance with Louisiana intestate succession laws.

Louisiana has an assumption that if a married person dies without a will, the spouse should not inherit anything from the other spouse if there are children. What's more, if there is separate property and no will, the nieces and nephews will inherit before a spouse, and this can come as a huge surprise to the surviving spouse. For surviving spouses, if their late spouse died without a will, they will certainly come out on the short end of the stick.

For beneficiaries and surviving spouses of testate successions, they can view the succession process as reassuring since this process ensures that the express directions in the decedent's will are carried out and these distributions are overseen by the court. If you are a surviving spouse or a beneficiary that wouldn't normally inherit under an intestate succession, you can take comfort in the fact that although a succession can tie up estate assets, at least you can know that they are on their way providing there are remaining assets to be distributed once all debts are paid.

For further information about a Louisiana succession (probate), please feel free to contact an Allen Parish wills & successions attorney from Hebert Holmes & Fontenot at (337) 446-2440.