After a loved one dies, the estate goes through a process called succession, which other states call probate. The succession process can seem mysterious, and many of its steps occur behind the scenes, so the heirs and beneficiaries may receive little information about what is going on. In many cases, the testator or the court appoints an executor to handle these issues, and the heirs simply trust that succession is going along as expected.
One way to know if this is true regarding your loved one’s estate succession is to understand how the process works. It is wise to keep apprised of how succession is going and to remain in contact with the executor so you can be alert to issues that may seem questionable. This may be especially true if you have a great deal at stake.
The duties of the executor
The court must first authenticate the will, if one exists. If you are a named beneficiary, you will be part of the validation hearing and will have the opportunity to object if you question the validity or contents of the document. If the hearing goes smoothly, the executor will take over the following responsibilities:
- Locating and securing the assets of the deceased, which may mean searching for hidden assets, keeping them safe until succession is over and protecting them from depreciation
- Determining the value of certain assets, which may require hiring an appraiser or locating documentation for valuation
- Continuing to pay important bills, such as the mortgage, vehicle payments, utilities and others
- Notifying creditors that your loved one has passed and allowing time for creditors to file claims for outstanding debts
- Paying lingering debts and bills, including tax returns, which may require the liquidation of some assets
When the executor has met all these and other obligations to the court’s satisfaction, the executor may distribute the remaining assets as stipulated in the estate plan or, if no plan exists, according to Louisiana law.
Guidance through succession
The succession process may take anywhere from six months to a year, but if someone contests the will or files other disputes, you should expect indefinite delays. For example, you or another heir may doubt the mental capacity of your loved one at the execution of the will, or you may question the decisions of the executor. These are serious matters that involve complex legal issues. Fortunately, you can reach out to an experienced attorney who understands Louisiana succession laws and can assist you with your concerns.