Baton Rouge Succession lawyer

Why the Louisiana Succession Doesn't Ever Get Done...And How to Make Sure Yours Does Get Done

Two reasons estates don't get settled are (1) the survivors are unaware of the need to complete the probate (in Louisiana we call it a "Succession"); and (2) at least one of the participants is not cooperative.

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It is not uncommon for someone to pass away leaving survivors, and those survivors are unaware of the need to complete the probate of the deceased family member. For example, let's day Dad dies. Dad and Mom had purchased a home 35 years earlier. After Dad dies, Mom decides to continue living in their home. Mom has access to all of the joint bank accounts, and Mom was the designated beneficiary of Dad's IRA. She doesn't even think about seeing a lawyer to complete a Succession. Years later, Mom wants and needs to move into an assisted living facility. She decides to sell the home to help cover the expenses of moving and living in the assisted living facility. She puts the house up for sale, finds a buyer, and signs a purchase agreement. The buyer's title attorney conducts a title examination and discovers the home is still in the names of both Dad and Mom. The buyer's title attorney says, "No sale will take place until Dad's probate is complete!" So the sale is suspended, or perhaps worse, the buyer backs out of the sale.

We often see surviving family members unaware of the need to complete a Succession after their loved one dies. Perhaps the deceased owned a rental property and the family merely continued to collect rent from a tenant but never went through the Louisiana Succession to get the title transferred. Perhaps the deceased had owned a one-third undivided interest in family property, with her two siblings, and no one bothered to include that as a Succession asset after she died. Perhaps the deceased owned real estate out of state, and the Louisiana Succession does not transfer any of the real estate owned in the name of the Louisiana resident.

So there are many circumstances where surviving family members are unaware of the need to complete a Louisiana Succession after the death of a loved one. And when they finally uncover that need years later, it is more complicated because there is urgency, or perhaps an heir of the deceased passed away in the interim, making more probates necessary.

A second, and perhaps more frustrating, reason estates don't get settled, is when one or more of the participants is uncooperative. Neither the executor acting alone, or a majority of the heirs, can complete a Louisiana Succession by themselves.

In order to transfer assets of the decease to the heirs, a judge must sign a court order ordering third parties to transfer assets out of the name of the deceased, and into the names of the heirs. A judge will not sign the necessary court order until ALL OF THE PARTIES sign off on the petition requesting the judge to sign the order (this order is referred to as a "Judgment of Possession").

Sometimes a participant will refuse to sign the necessary paperwork - sometimes for valid reasons and sometimes for petty reasons. Nonetheless, one participant refusing to fully cooperation will stop an estate settlement in its tracks.

So what's the Solution? Twofold:

(1) On the planning side, particularly if you anticipate relationship issues among your heirs, establish an estate legal program to eliminate or minimize the potential for problems. Avoid probate. Put the right people in charge with the authority to get things done. Communicate your reasons exactly why you are doing what you are doing.

(2) Once a family member dies, make sure you have very quick and very open communication with all of the parties involved. This early and open communication will build trust among the parties, often eliminating discourse.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais

Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney

Phone: (225) 329-2450

How To Find Out What Accounts Deceased Person Owned

Occasionally, after someone dies, the family starts to question what their deceased relative really owned. Sometimes we hear statements from children or other relatives like:

"I thought Dad had more CDs at the bank."

"I thought Dad had another savings account."

"I thought Dad owned stock in some other companies."

"I thought Dad had an annuity and a life insurance policy."

Well, there is no central registry that you can go to and determine everything that someone owned when they died. But there are both informal and formal ways that you can dig and determine what someone owned on the date of their death.

There are a couple of obvious formal ways that you can try and discover additional assets. First, go back and look at the last few years of their tax returns. They would likely have received tax reporting statements from financial institutions that show that accounts were owned. Second, check their mail. If they owned financial accounts, it's likely they may received account statements in the mail.

And then there is the formal way to discover someone's assets after they died. Let's use an example of Dad, who died with a last will and testament. Dad names Son as executor. People are questioning the fact that Dad owned additional accounts. Once Son works with the lawyers and the court system to get confirmed as the executor, the courthouse will issue certified copies of Letters of Independent Executorship. Son can then go to every financial institution where he thinks Dad may have had an account, and the "Letters of Independent Executorship" require the third parties to disclose Dad's account information to Son, who is the independent executor.

So, there is no central registry one can go to and figure out what someone owned when they died, but there are both informal and formal ways to locate whether a deceased person owned additional accounts or other assets. Your estate planning and estate settlement attorney can help you get the proper court authority and make the right kinds of inquiries to expedite this process. And ideally, none of this is necessary if the deceased person would have, during his or her lifetime, maintained a current inventory of assets and communicated that inventory to the appropriate family members or other loved ones.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
Phone: (225) 329-2450

The Louisiana Succession: The Basics

What is a Louisiana Succession and when is it required?

When a resident of Louisiana dies, it's likely that they owned some things. Perhaps they owned a home, other real estate, bank accounts, maybe some stock in a company, and perhaps a vehicle. Well, it's not uncommon for some people to claim that they are entitled to own and use these things. 

The Louisiana Succession is the court-supervised judicial proceeding that must take place when someone dies with assets in their name. It takes place whether or not the person left a last will and testament. Now, some assets can be transferred without having to go through a Succession, like a life insurance policy or an individual retirement account which had designated beneficiaries. But most assets, like the ones described above, must be listed in a Succession proceeding and a judge will ultimately order the division or distribution of assets.

After someone dies, and prior to the Succession, no one can access the funds or stock of the deceased, and the real estate owned by the deceased cannot be sold or transferred into anyone else's name. Some people ask, "Can't I just take Dad's Will to the bank and ask them for his money?" That won't work. The bank will not release Dad's accounts without the appropriate and certified Succession court orders that have been signed by a judge as part of the Succession process.

So if you have had a loved one pass away, and you feel you are entitled to own some or all of the assets of the deceased, then the most efficient way for you to get things done is for all of the parties to work with a Louisiana Succession attorney to create and implement a plan to gather all of the necessary asset and family information, and then follow the court rules to complete the Succession matters cooperatively.