There are several types of succession procedures available in Louisiana. The correct procedure is contingent upon the nature and value of the deceased person’s assets and debts. It also depends on whether the estate must be administered and whether the decedent died testate (with a will) or intestate (without a will). The types of successions available in Louisiana are the succession affidavit, judicially opened small successions, simple possession successions and administered successions. I will explain the succession procedures available in Louisiana in a series of blog posts beginning with the succession affidavit in this post. The most streamlined procedure is the succession affidavit. We often receive inquiries from individuals who were told by a bank or other financial institution that the heirs need a succession affidavit to distribute the deceased person’s account. An account in the name of a deceased individual is frozen until the financial institution receives proper documentation indicating the identity of the new owners of the account (the heirs). During an administered succession, the funds may be released to an executor or administrator of a succession. I will discuss administered successions in a future blog post. The funds may also be released to the heirs upon delivering a judgment of possession which provides for how the estate is to be distributed. The judgment of possession is signed by the judge at the conclusion of a simple possession succession or an administered succession. Finally, a succession affidavit may be delivered to the financial institution to have the funds distributed to the heirs (sometimes called successors).
A succession affidavit is available in Louisiana for estates with a value of $75,000 or less. If the decedent died more than 25 years from the date the succession affidavit is recorded, the $75,000 limitation is waived. The succession affidavit provides the bank or other financial institution with the authority to transfer the account to the heirs. It is also used to transfer title to real estate. The succession affidavit and a death certificate are recorded in the conveyance records in the office of the clerk of court in the parish where real estate described in the succession affidavit is situated. The succession affidavit must be recorded more than 90 days after the decedent’s death. This will serve to complete the chain of title to the new owners (the heirs).
Although a succession affidavit is the easiest and lowest cost type of succession, it may be used only in limited situations. The first situation is where a Louisiana resident died without a will (intestate) and the heirs are the surviving spouse, descendants or siblings a succession affidavit may be used. The second situation is where the decedent was not a Louisiana resident and their will was probated in another state and the sole heirs are those named in the will probated in another state. These limitations mean that a succession affidavit cannot be used if the value of the estate exceeds $75,000, if the decedent was a resident of Louisiana and died with a will, or for a resident of another state who died without a will.
For example, a resident of Louisiana dies without a will leaving a checking account with a balance of $60,000 as the only asset. The deceased person was not married at the time of death and has three children. The three children are each entitled to one third of the account under Louisiana law. To have the funds distributed to them the children can use a succession affidavit instead of going through a regular succession.
If instead of a bank account, the parent of the three children owned a tract of real estate valued at $70,000. The three children wish to sell the property, but they cannot do so until the property is in their names. The property must go through a succession to be retitled in the children’s names. In this case a succession affidavit can be used instead of the standard succession procedure.
A succession affidavit is also useful in situations where an individual died testate (with a will) in another state and an ancillary succession needs to be done for property located in Louisiana.
Contact attorney John E. Sirois in Houma at 985-580-2520 if you have questions about opening a succession or about succession affidavits in Louisiana. Click on the Succession Checklist for a detailed form to gather the information to open a succession. You may also e-mail him with questions you have about opening a succession in Louisiana.