Our legal services team specializes in successions, property settlements, and other legal matters that are unique to buyers and sellers in Louisiana. 

family in Louisiana talking about succession


A succession is the process of settling a deceased person’s estate and distributing the property after debts are paid. This process is called probate in other states. Succession is also used to refer to the estate a person leaves behind at death.

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Inheritance basically refers to the transfer of property and wealth from a person who has died to a descendant who is still living. If a person dies without a will having left that specifies what assets are specifically left to his offspring, then all of his succession, whether community or separate property, passes to the offspring. If one of his children has predeceased the decedent, but has children of their own, those grandchildren of the decedent inherit by representation, meaning that they inherit and will split the share that their parent would have inherited.

It is often assumed that the surviving spouse inherits a 50% interest from the decedent. This belief is incorrect because the surviving spouse does not inherit anything from the decedent if there are children and no will.

If there are no children, then the surviving spouse will inherit the decedent’s portion of community property. A will could create any number of new rules of who will or will not inherit.

In order to understand Louisiana inheritance laws, you need to be familiar with the legal term USUFRUCT. The word is easier to understand if you think of two common English words: use and fruits.

Often in our state, one person will inherit the right to use the property while another will inherit the right to sell or mortgage property. A house is a perfect example.

One person may have the right to live in the house. Another person may own and thus have the right to sell the house. This other right is referred to as ‘naked ownership’. While the naked owner can sell the house, it would have no effect on the usufruct.

When the person who has the usufruct dies, the person who has the naked ownership automatically gets the usufruct, or in other words, becomes the ‘full owner’.

Even though a cost of succession in Louisiana can vary depending on the situation and the type of legal representation, as well as a number of fees associated with it, you could be looking at anywhere between $1,250 and $3,500 not including court costs, which usually range between $250 to $500 depending on parish.

However, if there are any legal issues to be resolved, such as children from multiple partners, or if there is a need for litigation, the cost can go higher than this.

Succession can be either intestate (without a will) or testate (with a will).

Intestate succession occurs when there is no will or when the will is invalid in whole or in part, or the will does not dispose of all the decedent’s property. Its opposite, testate succession, indicates that the deceased had a valid will prior to death.

In Louisiana, the law provides for the disposition of the assets in the absence of a will.

Intestate successors are commonly called ‘heirs’ while testate successors are commonly called ‘legatees’.

Additionally, a court-appointed administrator is the person in charge of the estate when someone dies without a will, while an executor is specifically named in the will to take charge of the estate.

For example, any retirement asset, like an IRA or 401(k), would not have to go through succession and would not be subject to inheritance tax. It is important to make sure your beneficiary designation(s) are up to date.

Some types of property are not considered part of your estate succession in Louisiana. Normally, a property that is paid directly to a named payee by a third party is not subject to succession laws.

For example, any retirement asset, like an IRA or 401(k), would not have to go through succession and would not be subject to inheritance tax. It is important to make sure your beneficiary designation(s) are up to date.

The first thing you should do when someone dies is to preserve the information that will be needed to conclude the succession. This information consists of information about the decedent, such as:

  • the date he or she died
  • where they lived when they died
  • whether they executed a valid testament before death
  • who are the heirs or legatees
  • what property and liabilities they left behind

A good practice is to gather together in one place all of the bills and bank statements that are received in the mail over the next 30 days or longer. If the decedent had any stock, bonds, or other securities, it would be useful to retain a listing, such as a newspaper listing, of the quotes for the day they died.

It is also important to retain all of the bills for the funeral and burial. These bills are considered administrative expenses of the succession and are treated differently from all other bills that the decedent had at the time he or she died. If the decedent had pre-paid his funeral expenses, you should retain those records.


step 1

All successions must be opened in the parish of the deceased’s domicile, which combines both an intent to remain in a place plus physical presence.

step 2

If a person was not domiciled in Louisiana, the succession may be open in a parish where the deceased had immovable property.

step 3

If a person was not domiciled in Louisiana and owned no immovable property, the succession may be open in any parish where the movable property of the deceased is located.


Generally speaking, the attorney handling the succession will need to know the following things:

About the decedent​

The decedent’s name, social security number, address at the time of death, date of death, marital status at the time of death, and whether they died testate or intestate. If the decedent died testate, the attorney will need the original testament. If the decedent died testate, the attorney will need to know if there are any forced heirs. 

About the property

A list of all the assets the decedent had when they died, a determination of whether those assets were community property or separate property of the decedent, and the value those assets had on the day the decedent died, a list of the debts the decedent owed when he or she died, as well as a list of the funeral and burial expenses. For any real estate, the attorney will need a formal legal description of the property, which can be found in the act by which the decedent acquired ownership of the property. If you do not have that document, it can be retrieved from the property records of the parish where the property is located. If the property is covered by a mortgage, that mortgage must also be listed.

About the heirs

A list of all the heirs or legatees, their addresses, dates of birth, and social security numbers. If any heir or legatee was a minor, the attorney will need to know the name, address, and social security number of the person who has custody of that minor.


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