Opening an estate with a Louisiana probate court is accomplished by filing a pleading called a “petition of possession” in what is known as a “succession” proceeding. In the vast majority of cases, the succession proceeding is opened and closed simultaneously. The steps to accomplish this involve gathering information and supporting documents, preparing the petition for possession and presenting a completed judgment for the probate judge's signature.
Prepare a list of all heirs of the deceased. If there is a will, it will determine who inherits from the estate, unless it is declared invalid in whole or in part. If there is no valid will, Louisiana law determines the order of priority for inheritance.
Prepare an accounting of all assets and liabilities of the estate, and establish the value of each asset.
Prepare and file a Louisiana inheritance and estate tax return, and pay any taxes that are due. State inheritance taxes and estate transfer taxes are reported on Louisiana Department of Revenue Form 3318. File the original in the succession court record and a signed copy with the Department of Revenue. Be sure to keep a copy for your records.
Prepare and sign a petition for possession. Prepare and sign an affidavit that attests to the allegations of jurisdiction, death and heirship made in the petition.
Prepare and sign a “sworn descriptive list” that reports all assets and liabilities of the estate as shown on the accounting made earlier.
Prepare a judgment of possession, the order to be signed by the probate court, recognizing the petitioning heirs and placing them in possession of the estate. The judgment of possession will ultimately serve as the heirs’ deed to the estate and should be recorded in the conveyance records of any Louisiana parish in which any real estate listed in the judgment is located.
Present the judgment of possession for the judge’s signature. The judge will review the petition, supporting affidavit, sworn descriptive list, inheritance tax return and Department of Revenue certificate before ruling on the judgment of possession.
Pay the required filing fees to the clerk of court, file the petition, supporting affidavit, sworn descriptive list, inheritance tax return and Department of Revenue certificate with the clerk of court, and request certified copies of the judgment of possession.
Administration of the estate by an executor may be required if it has significant liabilities or an heir is not legally competent to be placed into possession of the estate.
Although the deceased may have left a will, the Louisiana law of “forced heirship” may require a portion of the estate to nevertheless be inherited by certain heirs, despite contrary terms of the will.
The portion of the marital community property owned by the surviving spouse of the deceased is not property of the estate. Similarly, some contract rights, such as death benefits due on life insurance, are also not treated as assets of the estate.
- Southeast Louisiana Legal Services: Louisiana Probate Law Practice; Ex Parte Petitions for Possession
- Acadiana Legal Service Corporation: Wills and Estates
- Estate Planning, Will Drafting and Estate Administration; Max Nathan, Jr. and Carole Cukell Neff
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