The succession process when there is a will

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Carl S. Goode |

When someone dies, the process of transferring ownership of the decedent’s property is succession. The specific steps depend on whether the decedent died with or without a will.

When there is a will, it is a testate succession, and the successors are legatees instead of heirs, which is the term used when there is not a valid will. Once a judge determines the validity of the decedent’s will, an executor is an individual who carries out most of the steps of succession.

Property that does not go through succession

According to the State of Louisiana Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, not all property transfers via succession. Those that have a designated beneficiary generally transfer directly to the named individual. Examples of these types of property include retirement accounts, annuities and life insurance policies.

The executor’s role

All other property of the deceased goes through the succession process, and the executor is the person who carries out the directions of the will and closes the estate. FindLaw discusses that the role of executor carries much responsibility, and it outlines many of the jobs an executor is in charge of:

  • Inform certain entities, such as insurance companies, the Internal Revenue Service, utility companies, financial institutions, Social Security Administration and credit card companies, of the decedent’s death
  • Locate, gather, valuate and protect all named assets and property
  • Identify all valid creditors and pay the estate’s debts and ongoing bills
  • Collect any owed debts
  • File taxes for the estate

The executor pays for bills and debts with money, or the selling of assets, from the estate. Once completed, the executor divides the remaining property and assets to the legatees and closes the estate.

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