Louisiana Small Succession

Is There a Minimum or Maximum Amount of Assets to Watch Out For When Completing a Louisiana Succession?

Does someone ever own "too little" or "too much" to justify putting the family through a Louisiana Succession?

Two key points about a "minimum" amount to justify a Succession. The first point will be explained with an example. Let's say Dad died and the only asset remaining in his name is a bank account with $400.00. The account is frozen and the banker needs the Succession court order to release the funds. The family quickly finds out that the Succession court costs and attorney fees alone will cost several thousand dollars to complete. It would not make sense for the family to undertake the Succession just to get access to a $400 bank account.

A second point about a minimum amount required to complete a Succession involves the Louisiana Small Succession Affidavit procedure. Again, I'll use an example: If Dad dies WITHOUT a last will and testament, and his assets do not exceed $125,000 in value, then the heirs can skip the full-blown judicial Succession proceeding and gain title or access to assets by completing the new Affidavit procedure.

As far as a maximum goes, there is no getting out of a Succession for a large estate. In fact, the largest estates will have to deal with the IRS through the federal estate tax return. But a federal estate tax return must be filed only when the deceased's total assets exceed $11.2 million (for deaths in 2018). So, the wealthy must deal with the Succession, and they also must comply with the federal estate tax guidelines, and in some cases, pay federal estate tax to the IRS.

The Louisiana Small Succession Affidavit Procedure

I've been involved in hundreds of Succession judicial proceedings over the years. Most people perceive these court proceedings as taking too much time, costing too much money, and being too much of a bureaucratic hassle.

Now, in Louisiana, it is possible for a family to skip the full-blown judicial court-supervised Succession proceeding when a family member dies owning assets in their name, but only under the following circumstances.

In certain circumstances, families can transfer title to property by going through the Small Succession Affidavit procedure. When this applies, no judicial pleadings need to filed at the courthouse. The Succession is completed through the preparation and recording of an Affidavit and certified copy of the deceased's death certificate in the appropriate parish real estate records.

However, this affidavit procedure is applicable in limited circumstances. To qualify for this procedure, the Louisiana resident must have died without a last will and testament, and EITHER, at the time of his or her death owned $125,000 of property or less, OR, died at least 20 years prior to the filing of the affidavit.

Note that if a Louisiana resident died WITH a last will and testament, then the Louisiana Small Succession Affidavit procedure is not available. Note also that this procedure is also available when someone died and they are not a Louisiana resident, but they own property in Louisiana - in fact, if they had a Will that was probated in another state, the procedure is available.

The Louisiana Small Succession Affidavit Procedure should make it somewhat easier for families to clear title to property when the assets of the deceased are minimal. Often times, families are stuck because they want to get the property in their name, but the deceased did not leave enough financial resources behind to complete a judicial proceeding. This procedure should help.

Who Should NOT Have a Will?

Recently, a Louisiana resident passed away. He had one son (who lived in Illinois) and the deceased father, trying to make things simple for his son to inherit, wrote a Louisiana last will and testament leaving his estate to his only son.

The son and I were talking on the telephone. The son was under the assumption that it would be a piece of cake to transfer Dad's $100,000 home and $3,000 bank account into son's name - that's all Dad had.

I told him that a judicial proceeding would be required to transfer the property into his name, and to gain access to the frozen $3,000 bank account. He said, quite simply, that he did not have the funds to pay for the court-supervised Succession process, in which lawyers are necessary to prepare and file all of the court pleadings and see to it that the judge signs the appropriate court orders which must be recorded in the real estate records of the parish where the property is located.

In the back of my mind, I was telling myself that things could have been simpler if his father died WITHOUT a last will and testament. Louisiana has a simpler estate settlement procedure when someone dies without a last will and testament AND the value of their assets is less than $125,000. Property can be transferred through an affidavit procedure and NO pleadings need to be filed at the courthouse.

Again, this procedure is only applicable if someone does not have a last will and testament AND they have minimal assets. If someone DOES have a last will and testament, then the law says judicial proceedings are necessary in order to have a judge determine that the WIll is valid and followed.