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When to Use the Small Estate Affidavit in Louisiana

In Louisiana, the Small Estate Affidavit serves as a streamlined legal process designed for estates with relatively modest assets after someone passes away. This legal instrument offers an efficient way to distribute property among heirs without the necessity of undergoing a lengthy probate process. 

Many people contact our office asking if they can use the Small Estate Affidavit for their family member’s succession. The Small Estate Affidavit has many advantages but is also limited in the types of estates it can be used on. This article will discuss and explain how and when the affidavit can be used to settle an estate and avoid court. 

Qualifying for the Small Estate Affidavit in Louisiana

Specific criteria must be met for an estate to be eligible to use the Small Estate Affidavit in Louisiana. Primarily, the total value of the estate should not exceed a predetermined threshold, which in Louisiana is currently set at $125,000 or less. This valuation typically excludes exempt property and encumbrances. If the assets fall within this value limit and the deceased individual left no will, or the will doesn’t nominate an executor, and the same outcome would be achieved with or without the will, the Small Estate Affidavit may be used to settle the estate. 

Circumstances That Allow Small Estate Affidavit Usage

The Small Estate Affidavit proves beneficial in various scenarios where the deceased person’s estate comprises limited assets. This affidavit can be helpful when dealing with a modest bank account balance, a small collection of personal belongings, or minor real estate holdings, all falling within the prescribed value limit. By using this affidavit, heirs can expedite the transfer of assets without having to undergo the more time-consuming and costly probate process, making it a viable option for qualifying estates.

Benefits of Using a Small Estate Affidavit

One of the primary advantages of employing the Small Estate Affidavit is its efficiency. Compared to the traditional probate process, which often involves court supervision, the affidavit streamlines the estate settlement, allowing for a quicker transfer of assets to rightful heirs. Additionally, it typically incurs lower costs, saving time and money for all involved parties. This simplified process offers a more straightforward means of administering the estate, providing relief from the complexities associated with formal probate.

Here are some common benefits of the expedited succession process: 

  1. It can be completed faster
  2. It does not require a judge’s signature
  3. Lower attorney fees
  4. Less filing fees, usually in the range of $105 – $120 depending on the parish
  5. Can transfer real estate property much faster 

Limitations and Restrictions of Small Estate Affidavits in Louisiana

While the Small Estate Affidavit offers an expedited approach to estate administration, it does have limitations. Estates exceeding the prescribed value limit of $125,000 or those containing complex assets, such as extensive real estate holdings or significant debts, may not qualify for this affidavit. Furthermore, if the deceased left behind unpaid debts or certain types of assets, a formal probate process might still be required to address these matters adequately. You also cannot use the Small Estate Affidavit if an administrator must be appointed. Lastly, many wills must be probated in court. 

Steps to Take When Using a Small Estate Affidavit

The process of filing a Small Estate Affidavit in Louisiana involves several essential steps. 

  1. Gather important documents regarding property
  2. Order the death certificate (Our office will need to file the originals)
  3. Draft an inventory of the estate’s assets
  4. Provide our office with this information
  5. We will then file in the appropriate parish

The state has strict guidelines regarding successions, and it is important to follow all legal requirements, or you could have issues years down the road. This is why you should speak with an attorney who specializes in Louisiana probate to make sure everything is done correctly. 

Differences Between Probate and Small Estate Affidavits

There are many differences between filing for probate in court and using the Small Estate Affidavit. While both aim to distribute assets after a person’s death, they differ significantly in complexity, time, and cost. Probate involves a court-supervised process, whereas the Small Estate Affidavit offers a simpler and more streamlined alternative for smaller estates.

Filing probate in court is often necessary, depending on the type of estate and other factors. The process can take 2 – 9 months, depending on the situation’s complexity and the court’s schedule. Clients filing probate must wait until the judge signs the judgment of possession or the executor/administrator paperwork. The Clerk’s office will then issue certified copies of important documents and mail them to your attorney. 

A Small Estate Affidavit, on the other hand, is much faster and does not have to go before a judge. The affidavit is filed into the record and transfers ownership of property as soon as it is filed. The process may still take a few weeks, but it is much faster and cheaper than filing a probate in court. 

Common Misconceptions About Small Estate Affidavits

There are several misconceptions surrounding the use of Small Estate Affidavits in Louisiana. Some individuals believe that all estates, regardless of value, can use this affidavit, while others might assume it’s a shortcut to avoid estate debts. Incorrectly filing with a Small Estate Affidavit when you were supposed to file in court can be an expensive mistake and can prolong the matter. An experienced Louisiana probate attorney can help you understand how the Small Estate Affidavit works and who can use it. 

When to Contact an Attorney

Louisiana estate law can be complicated. It’s highly recommended that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Consulting with an experienced attorney specializing in estate planning and probate matters can provide invaluable insights, ensuring a smoother and legally compliant estate settlement process.

The Small Estate Affidavit in Louisiana offers a simplified approach to handling smaller estates, providing a faster and more cost-effective alternative to traditional probate. However, understanding its qualifications, limitations, and procedural requirements is essential to utilize this legal tool effectively.

Andries Law Firm, LLC helps clients with succession matters and can help you through the process. Contact us online, call us at (318) 269-5857, or send us an email at Jerome@Andrieslawfirm.com for a FREE consultation. 

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