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Succession Procedure

By Steven E. Hayes

When an individual dies, the transfer of his property to his heirs is referred to in Louisiana as his “succession.” While many individuals and attorneys alike tend to complicate this procedure, it actually is quite simple.

There are two basic questions to be asked when handling an individual’s succession: Who gets the property and what is its value for tax purposes? The answer to the first question is determined by a review of the individual’s will or, if he had no will, by where state law says his property should go. However, if the individual had properties that have beneficiary designations, such as life insurance, retirement plans or annuities, the beneficiary designation will control the disposition for those assets. Such properties are not included in the Louisiana succession procedure since they are not controlled by the will or Louisiana law, but they may be part of the estate for tax purposes.

If there are no will contests or disputes as to where the individual’s property should go, then the procedure is simply to place the heirs in possession of the property. This is done by presenting a petition to the appropriate court telling the court where the individual’s property should go in accordance with his will or under state law, providing the court with a complete list of all the individual’s properties and debts are requesting ht the court sign a Judgment of Possession placing the appropriate heirs into possession of all of the individual’s properties.

Assuming all of the individual’s heirs agree with the petition, the court will sign the Judgment of Possession with no formal hearings. The Judgment of Possession is recorded in all parishes where the individual owned real estate, thereby transferring all of said real estate to his heirs, and the Judgment of Possession is given to all institutions or other entities who will transfer the title to other properties. Usually, the entire procedure can be completed in a matter of weeks.