Overview of a Louisiana Succession


Estate planning does more than establish financial security and ensure that you have a legacy to pass down to your loved ones, it allows you to have control over your assets and property when the inevitable happens. As a resident of Louisiana who has worked hard to build an estate, you may want to know that unless you establish a will, the state will control how your assets are divided. During an age when second marriages and blended families are more common than ever before, you probably have definite opinions on how you want your assets and property distributed, especially if you have complicated or strained family relationships.

In Louisiana, the process of settling a deceased person's estate is called succession, but it is called probate in other states. Louisiana has very strict laws that govern the distribution of assets when someone dies without a will, and if the deceased person was married, their spouse can find themselves quite unpleasantly surprised with the outcome; therefore, at Hebert Holmes & Fontenot, we recommend that all of our clients include a will in their estate planning documents.

Regardless if the decedent left a will or not, the succession will need to be opened in the state district court in the parish where the deceased lived at the time of his or her death. If the deceased did not live in Louisiana at the time of death, then a succession can be opened in the parish where the deceased owned property.

There are two types of successions in Louisiana: intestate and testate successions. Intestate successions are those that occur without a will and testate successions are those where a person died with a will. If there was a will, then a succession representative would have been designated by the deceased to settle the estate upon his or her death. In an intestate succession, a succession representative will be appointed by the court. The duties of the succession representative include but are not limited to:

  • Deposit estate funds without delay in a proper bank account
  • Make investments (with approval from the court)
  • Continue business operations (subject to court approval)
  • Pay debts against the estate
  • Defend lawsuits against the estate
  • File final tax returns for deceased
  • Provide annual accountings to the court
  • After debts are paid, distribute assets to beneficiaries according to the will

How property is distributed will depend on the existence of a valid will. If there was a valid will, then the property will be distributed however the decedent wanted with the exception of forced heirs, which are children under 24 years of age or a permanently disabled child. Although a forced heir is required to receive a certain portion of the estate, a will can at the very least give a surviving spouse usufruct over the forced portion, which allows the spouse to enjoy the property without owning it.

Without a valid will, the property will be distributed according to Louisiana's intestate succession laws, which typically benefit children, surviving spouses, siblings, nieces and nephews, and parents.

To learn more about a Louisiana succession, contact an Allen Parish wills & successions lawyer from Hebert Holmes & Fontenot at (337) 446-2440.