A loved one has passed away.  The funeral is over and the casseroles have stopped coming.  It’s time to take care of the decedent’s estate. This will involve collecting the decedent’s assets, liquidating liabilities, paying necessary taxes, and distributing property to heirs.  This process is called probate, or in Louisiana, succession. *

The term estate is usually used to refer the property that a person owned at death. Under Louisiana law, a person’s estate includes all the property, rights, and obligations that a person leaves after his or her death, as well as rights and obligations that don’t arise until after death. The purpose of succession is to give clear title to the deceased person’s assets, so after the succession process is complete, whoever ends up with the assets can sell them, take out loans against them, and otherwise freely deal with the assets.  To make sure everything is legal, this process is overseen by a probate court. This court involvement reassures third parties that a person who claims to own a deceased person’s property is a true owner.

A Louisiana succession can be either testate or intestate. A succession is said to be testate if the decedent left a will that is valid under Louisiana law.  A succession is intestate if the decedent did not leave a valid will, or the decedent had a will, but it was only partially valid or only disposed of a part of his or her property.   If the decedent dies intestate—without leaving a will—the court appoints a personal representative to distribute the decedent’s property according to the laws of descent and distribution.  These laws direst the distribution of assets based on hereditary succession.

Louisiana successions are not always necessary.  A lot depends on what assets the deceased person owned and how they are titled.  Some assets – such as annuities and IRAs, insurance policies, and certain retirement plans – are not part of the Louisiana succession. These non-probate assets pass automatically to the named beneficiary, without the need for court involvement.  This is so even if the deceased person left a Last Will and Testament that differs from the beneficiary designations.   The beneficiary designations will trump the Last Will and Testament.

Confused much? Here at the Law Office of W. Kyle Green in Ruston, we understand that this may be one of the most difficult parts of losing a family member.  The laws are complex and confusing. Let us help you navigate through the legal business of losing a loved one. We can help you determine whether a Louisiana succession is necessary in your situation and, if so, we will be there through every step of the proceedings to make sure that everything is done in accordance with the law, and even more importantly, in accordance with the last wishes of the decedent.

* So, if a succession is the same thing as probate, why the different terminology?

The difference has to do with the history of how Louisiana law developed.  The law of most states is based on a framework of prior court opinions known as common law.  Louisiana took a different path, choosing to use a civil law system that is has its roots in French and Spanish codes.  Because of the differences in origin, Louisiana law uses different terms to refer to various legal concepts.  The concepts themselves, though, are not substantially different.

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The Law Office of W. Kyle Green has served as lead counsel for multi-million dollar litigation for both Plaintiffs and Defendants. We also handle a wide range of general civil matters for clients across the state.

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308 N. Vienna St.
Ruston, LA 71270



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