What is Probate?

by Vincent B. "Chip" LoCoco, Esq.

When a loved one dies, that person's estate goes through a legal process which is known in Louisiana as a Succession proceeding.

Probate is one aspect of Successions. It is the legal proceeding used when a person dies having written a Last Will and Testament. This is referred to as a testate estate.If the person dies without a will, then it is said that the person died intestate. This brief article will only cover the situation where a person died with a will, i.e. a testate succession.

Probate is primarily the process through which title is ultimately transferred from the name of the deceased to the names of the beneficiaries listed in the deceased person's will. The first step in Probate is when the heir or heirs of the decedent or the person named in the will as the Executor of the estate petition the Court to have the Judge probate the Last Will and Testament of the decedent, meaning the Court will officially recognize the will as the Last Will and Testament of the deceased. In some cases, the Court will also recognize and appoint the person named in the will to act as the Executor of the estate. This entire process is called "opening the estate."

Once the estate has been opened, then the Executor and the estate attorney can begin the process of collecting assets and handling all of the affairs of the decedent until such time that the estate is ready to be closed and a Judgment of Possession rendered in the matter.

Every probate estate is unique, but most involve the following steps:

  • Filing of a petition with the proper probate court.
  • Notice to legatees under the Will.
  • Petition to appoint Executor of the estate.
  • Inventory and appraisal of estate assets by Executor.
  • Payment of estate debt to rightful creditors.
  • Sale of estate assets.
  • Payment of estate taxes, if applicable.
  • Final distribution of assets to heirs.

Certain types of assets are what is called “non-probate assets” do not go through probate. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Retirement accounts such as IRA and 401(k) accounts where there are designated beneficiaries.
  • Life insurance policies.
  • Property owned by a living trust. Legal title to such property passes to successor trustees without having to go through probate.

Since 1967, the law firm of Many & LoCoco has been assisting individuals with the handling of the probate of estates. If you are looking for a New Orleans Estate attorney, please call us today and we will be glad to assist you.

The Attorneys of Many & LoCoco assist clients throughout parts of Southern Louisiana, including but not limited to New Orleans, Metairie, Mandeville, Convington, Gretna, Arabi, Marrero, Westwego, Harvey, Chalmette, Kenner, and the Parishes of Orleans, Jefferson, St. Tammany, and St. Bernard, LA.

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