Louisiana Probate Law: What Happens If There’s a Will?

Jun 16, 2021 by Ciolino & Onstott

Louisiana Probate  Law: What Happens If There’s a Will?
Louisiana probate law applies when there is a Last Will and Testament.
Louisiana probate law governs the process of probate in Louisiana. Specifically, probate is the process by which the courts recognize the validity of a Last Will and Testament, enforce its terms, and transferring ownership of a person's belongings after they die. When the deceased person has a will, Louisiana probate law refers to this as a testate succession. 

When someone dies with a Louisiana will in place and that will is valid, the instructions left in the will related to the distribution of the assets are followed. Because Louisiana probate law and the process of probating a will can raise a lot of questions, we've created this short guide to provide you with some basic information about the Louisiana probate process when a will is involved. 

The information presented here regarding wills and how probate in Louisiana works is not a substitute for legal advice. If you have questions about how to draft a Louisiana will or the probate process, schedule a free consultation now with Ciolino & Onstott. 

Louisiana Law on Succession with a Will

Louisiana law on succession with a will and Louisiana probate law isn't quite the same thing, although the terms are often considered interchangeable. Both succession and the probate process accomplish the same goal: transferring the deceased's assets to the heirs. However, not all of the deceased's assets go through probate. To learn more about the succession process itself, we invite you to read one of our earlier blog posts

Louisiana law on succession begins with Article 871 of the Louisiana Civil Code. Wills in Louisiana must be probated to be given effect. However, if the estate's value is worth less than $125,000, and the outcome would be the same if there were no will, the same estate may qualify for a small succession affidavit. 

One of the purposes of the probate process is to ensure that the Last Will and Testament is valid. The State of Louisiana sets legal requirements that determine what one must do when writing a will in Louisiana. Once the will is presented, the judge determines if all of the requirements to create a valid will have been met and that the decedent was not pressured in some way to write or change it. These challenges are rare, but they do occur. The general presumption is that the will is valid and that no coercion occurred. 

Louisiana Nonprofit Assets

Louisiana wills are used to explain how you want your assets distributed to others when you die. One of the responsibilities of the court is to ensure that your will is valid. It is important to note that not all of your assets are controlled by the court. They are considered nonprobate assets. 

Examples of Louisiana nonprobate assets include retirement accounts, insurance payouts, and other accounts with beneficiaries named. These accounts will automatically payout or transfer over to the beneficiary when you die. They do not go through the Louisiana probate process. 

How Long Do You Have to Probate a Will in Louisiana? 

Louisiana probate law does not list a specific time by which a will must be probated. However, Louisiana wills should be probated as soon as possible so that the decedent's assets can be appropriately transferred over to the appropriate owner(s). Having a will in Louisiana gives people the power to explain how they want their assets distributed, but until their will is probated, the transfer of assets will not be recognized by the public, although they are legally transferred at death. 

The Basics of the Louisiana Probate Process When There Is a Will 

When it is time to probate a will in Louisiana, first, you must take the will and open a succession in the district court in the parish where the decedent lived when they passed away. If the person lived out of state and they owned real estate in Louisiana, you open a succession in the district court in the parish where the property is located. This is often easiest to do with the assistance of an experienced Louisiana probate lawyer who can guide you through the process. 

If the will names a personal representative or executor who is willing to act, they will be appointed to follow the directives of the probate court (as well as Louisiana probate law) and distribute the assets according to the will. However, this only occurs when there is a need to administer the estate. Simple estates may be opened and closed on the same day. 

Additionally, the personal representative must complete specific requirements such as creating an inventory of the assets within the estate, pay the debts belonging to the estate, and file the final tax returns. Again, this step only occurs for assets within the estate that need administration. 

This is, of course, a best-case scenario for how to probate a will in Louisiana. However, there can be individuals who think they should have inherited who decide to contest the will. When this happens, probate can become much more difficult. Louisiana probate lawyers can help you navigate both the probate process as well as the person or persons contesting the will. 

What Is the Cost of Probate in Louisiana If There Is a Will?

Aside from the probate court's filing fees, the cost of probate in Louisiana if there is a will depends on several factors. 
  • Whether you hire a probate attorney for the succession.
  • The compensation amount for the personal representative if an estate requires administration. An amount may be specified in the Louisiana Last Will and Testament. If it isn't, 2.5% is commonly used by the court. 
  • Paying for an executor bond if the court requires it. 
  • Recording fees for real estate. 
  • Paying to have certain assets appraised, if necessary. 
Additionally, if a probate matter is complicated, if the estate is large, or if someone decides to contest the estate, the cost of probate generally increases. 

Free Consult: Louisiana Wills and Louisiana Probate Laws

If you would like to learn more about Louisiana wills, probate laws, and the probate process when a will is involved, Ciolino & Onstott is here to help educate you. Ciolino & Onstott can also help you craft a Last Will and Testament to help protect your family's future when you're gone. To schedule your free consultation, click here. 

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