A succession is the Louisiana procedure for distributing a deceased person’s property to their heirs and creditors, if any. The procedure is the same whether or not the decedent left a will. Most successions do not require administration and can be concluded by filing one set of papers with the court, including the will, if applicable. The court then issues a judgment recognizing the inheritance. However, some successions will require administration because family members are in disagreement over disposition of estate property, a will is being attacked, an heir cannot be located, or the decedent’s assets need to be sold to pay debts.
A trust is an instrument in which one person (the settlor) gives money or other assets to a second party (the trustee) to administer on behalf of a third party (the beneficiary). Disputes sometimes arise between or among the parties to a trust. For example, beneficiaries may question the manner in which the trustee is handling the trust and seek an accounting of the trustee’s actions.
Our team is led by Beau Sagona, a Louisiana board-certified Estate Planning and Administration Specialist. Many complicating issues may arise in the context of successions, including the transfer of business interests, the transfer of real estate and other assets, usufructuary accounting, will contests, and sometimes tax issues. The diversity of other practice areas of the attorneys on our succession team means that our attorneys are capable of effectively handling these matters when they arise in the context of successions. Our team even includes a Certified Public Accountant (CPA).
The extensive experience and knowledge of the firm’s attorneys includes identifying and collecting all assets involved in the succession, resolving contested successions, successfully dealing with creditors of the decedent, and distributing remaining property to heirs or legatees after payment of all estate debts. The Derbes Law Firm’s succession team has guided clients throughout the succession administration process, including challenges to and defenses of administration, challenging and defending wills (including lack of capacity and undue influence issues), handling insolvent successions, locating missing heirs, handling ancillary successions for out-of-state clients with Louisiana property, and litigating disinherison issues. The Derbes Law Firm has litigated many of these same issues in connection with trusts, even where persons attempted to avoid probate/succession administration with trusts.
The Derbes Law Firm’s results for clients have included the following:
- Successfully negotiated settlement among eight parties in challenge to seven-figure inter vivos trust which had been amended multiple times and which involved competency disputes at each amendment;
- Ascertained that widow’s family trusts failed to distribute income during marriage, and after winning motion, successfully negotiated seven figure settlement of dispute in favor of the sole heir of deceased spouse;
- Obtained marital portion of house for widow whose husband inherited the house and failed to write a will leaving it to his wife;
- Successfully litigated and obtained court order authorizing reuse of a crypt over the objection of a predeceased spouse’s family member; and
- Represented trustee in litigation regarding and settlement of an issue involving inconsistencies between a Louisiana amendment to an Oklahoma trust instrument.