Succession

Deceased Owned Property in Many Parishes: How To Transfer To Heirs in a Succession

This post describes how the real estate of a deceased person, who owned property in multiple Louisiana parishes, gets transferred the right way to the heirs.

We recently started working on a Succession. The deceased lived in Jefferson parish but owned property in several different parishes. He didn't own property in Jefferson Parish, but he owned property in St. Tammany, Tangipahoa, Plaquemines, and St. Landry Parishes. The daughter, who was named the executor of her father's Will, thought she was going to have to travel all around the state to register the children as the new owner of all of their father's property.

I explained the procedure for getting the property transferred as follows:

(1) Succession Opened. The proceeding to open a Succession after someone dies must be brought in the district court of the parish where the deceased was domiciled at the time of his death. In this matter, the deceased was domiciled in Jefferson Parish, even though he did not own a home or other real estate in Jefferson Parish. All court pleadings, petitions, Lists of Assets and Debts, court orders, and all other court documents of the Succession will be filed in the Jefferson Parish Succession Suit record.

(2) Judgment of Possession. At the conclusion of the Succession, the district court judge in Jefferson Parish will sign a court order that we prepare called a Judgment of Possession. We will ensure that all of the various legal descriptions of all of the deceased's different properties around the state are listed on this Judgment of Possession.

(2) Certified Copies of JOP. Once signed, we will request that the clerk of court of Jefferson Parish issue multiple certified copies of this Judgment of Possession (JOP).

(3) Record JOP in Parishes. We will record a certified copy of the JOP in the conveyance records in each parish where the deceased owned real estate. This will show all third parties and title examiners that ownership has been transferred from the deceased to the heirs (or, since there was a Last Will, to the legatees (children)).

In this matter, the deceased also owned real estate in Mississippi. I told the family that the Louisiana Succession would not transfer the Mississippi property. The family must hire another law firm in Mississippi to go through the ancillary probate in Mississippi to transfer the Mississippi property from the deceased to the heirs.

Many people who have property in multiple states transfer those multiple properties to one Living Trust so that no probate proceedings are necessary after the death of the Trust Maker.

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
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

How To Get an Executor of a Succession Confirmed

The purpose of this post is to walk you through the detailed steps of getting an executor of a Louisiana Succession confirmed. Once confirmed by the court, the executor can then access accounts of the decedent, sell Succession assets, and have other powers that enable the executor to start the process of settling an estate.

Just being named as an executor in a Will does not give the named executor the authority to act. They must first go through the process of getting confirmed by a court. The following are the steps to getting an executor confirmed:

(1) Must have the original last will and testament - the one that was actually signed. The will names the executor.

(2) A petition to probate the Will and ask the judge to confirm the executor.

(3) The executor will sign a Verification of the above-mentioned Petition.

(4) Two people who knew the deceased will each sign an Affidavit of Death, Domicile, and Heirship. This proves to a judge that the deceased died and that he had a Will and whether the deceased had forced heirs.

(5) The executor signs an Oath that they will faithfully perform their duties as executor.

(6) We will prepare and file and submit the court order that we want the judge to sign confirming that the executor has been confirmed.

(7) We will prepare Letters of Independent Executorship. The clerk of court will make several certified copies. The executor needs certified copies of these Letters to move frozen financial accounts into an estate account.

(8) We have the named executor sign an Application for Tax ID Number. This number is necessary so that the executor can open an estate account.

So we file all the court pleadings and we wait - often a few weeks - for the court pleadings to be processed. We get it back and get certified copies of the Letters to the newly confirmed executor. And we are off and running.

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
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

The Succession Detailed Descriptive List

In every Succession in Louisiana when someone dies with assets in their name, the lawyers must prepare a number of court pleadings. One of the documents is commonly referred to as the "Detailed Descriptive List" or the "Sworn Descriptive List of Assets and Liabilities." I'll refer to it as the DDL.

The DDL is a snapshot of all of the assets and debts that a person owned when he or she died. If the deceased owned separate property, those separate assets would be listed. If they owned community property, then all of the community assets would be listed on the DDL. You would see the deceased's one-half value of the community property listed.

So, what assets get listed in the DDL? Well, it's all of the Louisiana real estate, the bank accounts, the investments, the business interests, and the boats, trailers and vehicles. No formal appraisal of real estate is required but a value must be placed on each asset listed on the Detailed Descriptive List. Note that if the estate is larger than $11.2 million, and a federal estate tax return is required, then the real estate will need to be appraised for purposes of federal estate tax return reporting. 

It's also important to note here that the capital gains tax basis of any appreciated assets gets stepped up to the fair market value on the date of death. Some people, years after the death of a loved one, go back and refer to the values listed on the detailed descriptive list to determine the basis of assets.

In addition, all of the debts of the deceased, and administrative expenses, get itemized on the DDL.

It's important to get the DDL right because all of the data from the DDL get transferred to the Judgment of Possession, which is the important court order that a judge signs ordering the transfer of assets to the heirs. One difference between the DDL and the JOP is that the JOP does not typically list the values of the assets to be transferred - it just lists the assets.

In 2017, the Louisiana Legislature provided that the Detailed Descriptive List, which in the past was public record, can now be sealed in the Succession record. This sealing of the DDL may prevent predators from searching probate records and preying on surviving spouses who have some wealth.

To get more information about completing a Succession in Louisiana, you can subscribe to our youtube channel, or view our website at www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com.

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
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
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
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Phone: (225) 329-2450

Children Donate Naked Ownership Interest Back To Surviving Parent

I've been working with a family recently. Dad passed away without a last will and testament ("intestate"). I explained to the family that since Dad died intestate, Dad's half of the community property would be inherited by Dad's children, subject to Mom's usufruct.

The children wanted to support Mom both emotionally and financially. The children wanted Mom to own everything so they asked me if they could donate their naked ownership interest back to Mom.  I told them that we would have to complete the Succession first in accordance with Louisiana law, and that Dad's half would have to go to the children, but then once the children were put "in possession" of the property, they could donate it back to Mom. Everyone felt good that Mom would own 100% of the property and the other Succession assets.

There were no gift or estate tax issues involved in the transaction since the estate tax exemption in 2018 is so high ($11.2 million). In fact, the children may benefit in the long run because when Mom dies many years from now, the children will benefit from the step-up in basis of Mom's entire estate as it passes to the children.

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.

The Louisiana Independent Executor

In 2001, Louisiana law first authorized the independent administration of a Succession. Prior to that time, any act that an executor or administrator took in the administration of a Succession was required to be approved by a judge. If the executor wanted to pay a utility bill, it must have been approved by a judge. If an administrator wanted to sell the clunker vehicle for $500, it had to be approved by a judge in advance of the sale. If an executor wanted to sell the home of a deceased person, a burdensome amount of legal advertising and judicial approval was required to sell the home. It made the administration of a Succession very difficult, time-consuming, and expensive.

Now, Louisiana allows executors to be "independent executors." And Louisiana law allows administrators of an intestate Succession to be "independent administrators." So what does that mean?

An independent executor and independent administrator can take certain actions without having to get pre-approval by a judge. The independent administration does not by any means eliminate the Succession, but the independent administrator or independent executor can pay bills, sell Succession assets, and take other certain specific actions without having to get a judge to approve the action in advance. The inventory or sworn detailed descriptive list is still required. Accountings are required (unless waived), and a judge is still required to order the transfer of assets.

How does one become an independent executor? One of two ways. Either the Will authorizes it expressly. Or, if the Will does not authorize it, the heirs all sign off on an Agreement to allow the executor to be independent.

How does an Administrator become an Independent Administrator. Well, all of the heirs who will inherit under state law must sign an Agreement to allow the court-appointed Administrator to be an Independent Administrator.

Note that if you are involved in a Succession in Louisiana and the executor or administrator is not independent, it is highly likely that one or more parties are being uncooperative, and the Succession will last a long time and be a significant burden on all parties involved.

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.

Starting a Louisiana Succession: Info To Gather

There is certain information that needs to be collected prior to starting a Louisiana Succession judicial proceeding. Getting off on the right start with the right information can enable the attorney and the family to design, agree on, and implement a plan to be as efficient as possible.

It typically starts with determining whether a Last Will and Testament exists. Many surviving family members have come to my office to discuss completing a Succession - but they neglect to bring the Will.

If a Will exists, we want to look closely at who the executor is. Is the executor an independent executor? Who are the heirs (also known in Louisiana as "legatees")? Are all of the people named n the Will still alive? Answers to all of the questions will help determine who the participants are in the Succession. You need to include all of the participants early on because their cooperation is necessary to conclude various Succession matters.

In addition, you'll want to gather all of the asset information. Make sure you get everything - all of the legal descriptions of real estate that the deceased had an ownership interest in, all of the bank accounts and investment accounts, any small business interests like limited liability companies, corporations or partnerships, any, vehicle titles, and anything else titled in the name of the deceased, or that the deceased had a community or separate property ownership interest in. Failing to gather all of the necessary asset and debt information on the front end may lead to frustration on the back end when you have to either start over or continue going back to court to petition a judge to amend the Succession court orders - this all takes additional time and money.

Once you have a good understanding of the provisions of the Will, the participants in the Succession, and all of the assets are involved, you and your attorney(s) should be able to devise a plan to complete all matters related to the Succession - from start to finish.

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.

Which Assets Require a Louisiana Succession?

Only certain assets that you own require the Louisiana Succession procedure to transfer them to your heirs. That's why people say that there are "Probate Assets" and "Nonprobate Assets."

Probate assets are assets that you own that cannot be transferred at death without a court-supervised probate proceeding. Real estate is a common probate asset. Even when a spouse dies, that spouse's ownership interest in the home must be transferred pursuant to a Succession proceeding. Some states allow you to title your real estate so that it automatically goes to your spouse when you die outside of probate - but Louisiana is not one of the states that permits this. Also, if you own an undivided interest in real estate when you die, your undivided interest (for example, a 25% interest that you own along with three siblings) must be transferred to your heirs pursuant to the Succession procedure.

Another probate asset is investments - stocks, bonds, and mutual funds that you own in your name. Securities laws require that investment accounts in your name be frozen when you die. No one will be able to access these funds or investments without the appropriate court orders. Again, some national investment companies allow you and your spouse to title investment accounts with designations such as Joint Tenants With Rights of Survivorship (JTWROS), but the problem is that the State of Louisiana does not recognize this as a form of ownership. In Louisiana, all assets are either separate property or community property - regardless of how titled. This causes confusion among heirs, brokerage firms, and others.

Small businesses are another probate asset. Many people own membership interests in limited liability companies (LLCs), or they own shares in a closely held corporation, or maybe even a partnership interest. Your probate will be required when you die to transfer your small business interest to your heirs.

Bank accounts can be tricky when it comes to probate. If you have an individual bank account in your name only, it will be frozen when you die and a Succession will be required to gain access to the funds. But some people add signers to their bank accounts, or they make a Payable On Death (POD) designation, which allows banks to release funds to another party outside of probate. Check with your attorney and your bank or credit union regarding whether a Succession will be necessary to gain access to bank or credit union funds.

Typical nonprobate assets include IRAs, life insurance, annuities, and other retirement accounts that allow you to designate a beneficiary. For example, Dad died leaving an individual retirement account (IRA). Dad had named Mom as the beneficiary. After Dad dies, Mom can produce a death certificate to the financial institution where the iRA is held, and the financial institution will transfer Dad's IRA into Mom's IRA - outside of courts, lawyers, judges, and the judicial system.  Note that, however, if "The Estate"  is the beneficiary, then those funds must be part of the Succession and will require a Succession proceeding to access those funds.

Non-titled personal items often are passed to family members outside of the formal judicial proceeding. Because Dad's gun and Mom's jewelry are not titled in anyone's name when Dad and Mom die, it is common for surviving family members to deal with these non-titled personal effects outside of the formal judicial process.

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.

Estate Planning When You No Longer Communicate With Child

I was working with a surviving wife who lost her husband a couple of years ago. The husband never took any time to put any kind of estate legal program in place. The husband had no communication with a child that he had from a previous marriage.

After her husband died, the wife told me she wanted to sell her home and relocate. I told her she would have to get her former step-son's written permission to be the independent administrator of her husband's Succession. She said, "That ain't gonna happen. He is not going to agree to anything unless i give him money."

We talked about how, as the Administrator of her husband's Succession, she would have to go through a lengthy process to, first, be appointed as the Administrator, and then even more lengthy, do the newspaper advertising and other judicially approved  things that will be necessary to sell the house. She realized it would be months, if not years, before she could sell the house and relocate.

All this could have been made much simpler if, prior to his death, the husband would have engaged in some meaningful estate planning to make settling his estate easier for his wife and other children. Now she is faced with this former step-son controlling many of her future moves.

Take action. Your loved ones will thank you for it.

Paul Rabalais
www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com
Law offices: All over south Louisiana
Phone: 866-491-3884

How To Structure Bank Accounts To Avoid Probate

One thing that frustrates families when they attempt to settle an estate is when they find out that any and all bank accounts that the deceased had are frozen by the financial institution, regardless of the amount of the accounts. Meanwhile, funerals and other expenses need to be paid.

People try every trick in book to outsmart the banks and the courts from freezing the accounts. The following are the top three ways people in Louisiana keep their bank accounts from being frozen at death.

(1) Add a Signer. Many "Do-It-Yourselfers" go to the bank and, perhaps, add an adult child or two as an authorized signer on their bank accounts. This often works, however, there is at least one major bank in Louisiana who will freeze the account at death even if there are other authorized signers on the account during the life of the account owner. So, check not only with your estate attorney but check with your bank.

(2) Payable on Death. Some Louisiana banks permit bank account owners to complete paperwork so that they make their accounts "Payable on "Death" (or, POD) to another person or people. This doesn't give anyone access to your account while you are alive, and the Designees must produce your death certificate to access the funds, but at least they will be able to receive the funds without having to go through a Louisiana Succession. Warning: Louisiana law does not entitle the designees to own the funds, POD simply releases the banks from liability for releasing the funds to the designees. If your estate planning legal documents differ from your POD designation, conflict may occur. And not all banks offer a POD designation.

(3) Trust Accounts. If you have a Living Trust, you can make your bank accounts trust accounts. When you die or become incapable, your Successor Trustee will have access to the accounts. Accounts won't be frozen. In the typical scenario, when you die, your Successor Trustee produces the trust instrument to the bank for approval, and then the Successor Trustee gains access to all trust bank accounts, and then disburses the accounts immediately to the trust beneficiaries without probate cost and delay.

Handling your bank accounts with an eye on estate planning can be tricky. It's a process that we go through with each client. But it's worth it when you arrange things so that your family has ease and simplicity instead of delay and frustration.

Paul Rabalais
Phone: 866-491-3884
Offices: All over South Louisiana
website: www.RabalaisEstatePlanning.com

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.

Louisiana Succession Law Allows Detailed Descriptive List To Be Sealed

There is a new Louisiana Succession law in place for 2017 that allows families to seal the Detailed Descriptive List of Assets and Liabilities, which has always been open for anyone in the public to see.

Until recently, as part of every Louisiana probate, the family was required to hire attorneys to, among other things, prepare a detailed listing of all assets and debts. This is referred to as the "Detailed Descriptive List."

Since all Probate documents are public record, this list of assets was available for anyone to see, including excluded family members, identity thieves, and others.

Now, a participant in the court proceeding can request that the Detailed Desciptive List be sealed in the court record. Even when sealed, a copy must be provided to the surviving spouse and certain heirs. 

While this step can keep family financial information somewhat private, it does not eliminate the cost and the delays already involved in the Louisiana Succession/Probate process.  Many families use trusts to keep family information private, while avoidng the costs and delays of the Louisiana Succession.

Paul Rabalais
866-491-3884

What Are Probate Costs In Louisiana?

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Another tough question to answer accurately is "What does a Succession cost in Louisiana?"

Succession or probate costs can vary significantly from matter to matter. One of the reasons probate costs in Louisiana can vary so much is that, as far as the attorney fees go, Louisiana is a "reasonable fee" state. In many other states, probate attorney fees are based on a percentage of the total assets in the estate.

Costs typically included in every Louisiana Succession matter include court filing fees, attorney fees, and real estate recording fees. Costs that are not always incurred but can add to the total cost of the Louisiana probate matter include accounting fees for executor accounting and tax accounting, bonding costs paid to an insurance company, and appraisal costs to value real estate or other Succession assets.

There are at least three different ways that attorneys and law firm charge to complete a probate in Louisiana. First, there is the traditional "bill for the attorney's time." Consumers complain about the unknown and inefficient aspects of hourly billing. You get charged for every discussion, phone call, email, car ride, error, and anything else that has to do with your matter. There are countless stories of consumers getting bills from their attorneys and the consumer cannot believe that the attorney spent as much time on their matter as indicated. In addition, in billable hour matters, the client is often reluctant to call or email the attorney to get questions answered for fear that the client will be "on the clock" and it will cost hundreds or thousands of dollars simply to get a question answered, particularly if the question requires some attorney research.

Other attorneys charge for their legal services in a Louisiana Succession based on a percentage of the value of the assets in the estate. Like I said earlier, this method is required in some states outside of Louisiana. So, if an estate is worth $1.5 million, and the attorney says he charges 2.5% of the estate for his or her legal services, then the attorney fees alone will be $37,500.

Note that married couples will go through the Louisiana probate process twice - once at each death. So if the family can avoid these probate costs which must be incurred at each death, the family can likely incur some significant costs.

Other attorneys who provide legal services to the survivors of a deceased in a Succession will charge based on a "fixed amount." Consumers like this because there is certainty, regardless of how many phone calls, discussions, or emails take place.

While I can't give a definite cost to expect, I can tell you there will not be a Succession matter handled that costs less than four figures (thousands). Many Successions in Louisiana cost the estate five figures (tens of thousands). And some Louisiana probate matters will cost the estate six figures (hundreds of thousands). 

Yes, there are ways that you can pre-plan to avoid probate. It simply requires that you get educated and take the right action. 

What Are the Steps Involved in a Louisiana Probate?

It's always a tough question for me to answer when someone asks, "What are the steps involved in a Louisiana probate?"

Every probate in Louisiana is different, based on the procedure and the complexity and the assets and debts that are involved.  The way a probate evolves can vary based on the parties that are involved and the relationships of those parties. The probate can vary based on whether a last will and testament exists, and, if so, the relevant terms of the last will and testament. So, again, there is going to be a probate "no matter what" if assets are in the name of the person who died, but the Will or lack of a Will often dictates the direction that the probate must take.

The following is a "typical" scenario that we see in many Louisiana Successions, but realize that your particular situation can be very different. 

(1) Hire Attorney and Develop a Plan. This is where all of the parties retain an attorney to guide the family through the court proceeding. It's a good idea at this point to have an initial plan that gets communicated to everyone regarding all of the steps that are necessary to complete the Louisiana probate.

(2) Get the Executor Confirmed. Court petitions get prepared and executed whereby the executor petitions a court to "probate the Will" and confirm the executor. The term "probate" is often misused. Most people prefer to use the term "probate" as the entire court-supervised proceeding from start to finish. But technically, when a judge "probates" a Will, the judge is confirming that the Will is a valid will under Louisiana law. Nonetheless, a judge typically signs a court order after this confirming the executor's status, and then the court order is processed so that the clerk of court of the proper parish issues "Letters of Independent Executorship," which lets banks, title examiners, and other third parties know that the executor may now act on behalf of the estate.


(3) Estate Account(s). Now that the executor has the authority to act on behalf of the estate - because he or she has been confirmed by the court as the executor (or, in many cases referred to as the "independent executor"), the executor may open an estate account or multiple estate accounts so that funds and other investments and financial accounts can be collected into the estate account.

(4) Accountings. The executor, the family, the participants, and the attorneys work together to prepare a Detailed List of Assets and Debts that the deceased has when he or she died. In addition, the executor may be required to have the attorneys prepare an accounting showing the court and heirs how the executor handled estate funds after the death of the deceased.

(5) Judgment of Possession. Once the estate has been administered and all of the above has been accomplished, the attorney will prepare a final petition to the court ( all of the heirs must sign off on this), requesting that the proper judge sign a court order (referred to as a "Judgment of Possession"), whereby the judge orders the executor and third parties to disburse assets to the heirs in the proper proportions, after all taxes, costs, and other administrative expenses have been paid.

(6) Distribution. Once the judge signs this Judgment, there is a process whereby each asset must be transferred to disbursed to the heirs. Copies of these Judgements are often filed in the real estate records of the parish where the deceased owned real estate - this is what conveys ownership of the real estate to the heirs. 

Again, the emphasis here that needs to be made is that each Louisiana probate is different, and even the best of plans that are made at the beginning often change due to the fact that new information gets discovered, or relationships turn sour, during the course of this court-supervised probate process. 

Also know that by planning ahead the right way with an estate legal program, you can arrange your legal affairs so that your family and heirs can completely avoid having to go through this.