Settling Small Estates (LA)

Updated Apr 5, 2024
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In Louisiana, small estates can completely bypass probate via small succession affidavit, or simplify it via unadministered succession. Regardless of estate size, probate is not required if an estate contains only assets exempt from probate.

Small Succession Definition

Louisiana defines a "small" succession as an estate whose gross value is <$125,000.

In calculating succession value, you should value assets as of the date of death, subtracting the amounts of any associated liens or encumbrances, but ignoring any unsecured debts. Do not include assets that would not normally go through probate, such as community property with right of survivorship, assets with named beneficiaries (e.g., 401Ks, life insurance policies), and other standard probate exclusions.

Small Succession Affidavit


A Louisiana estate can use the Small Succession Affidavit process and bypass court entirely if:

  • The estate qualifies as "small" as per above
  • There is no will, or there is a will but there is no real estate and the terms of the will would result in the same distributions as if there had been no will, or there is a will but the decedent lived out of state and the will was probated there
  • The sole heirs are the decedent's descendants, ascendants, siblings, descendants of siblings, and/or a surviving spouse (can also include anyone named in the will if probated in another state)
  • At least 28 days must have passed since the death
  • An application for appointment of personal representative has not been made


To use the small succession affidavit process:

  1. Create a Small Succession Affidavit (see below)
  2. Mail a notice to any heirs not signing the affidavit, informing them you intend to execute an affidavit of small succession, and stating they have up to 10 days to object
  3. Collect estate assets by presenting the affidavit to current custodians of estate property
  4. Settle the estate in the normal manner: resolve any estate obligations and distribute remaining assets to heirs
  5. To transfer title of a vehicle, you must also file an OMV Affidavit of Heirship with the OMV

This process appears easy and straightforward, and it can be, but while current holders of estate property are allowed to honor a small estate affidavit, they are not required to, and some institutions may insist on a court order.


You can create an affidavit by filling out an Affidavit of Small Succession from the OpenDocs project (this form is a bit dated, and if necessary you may want to update it to reflect the current estate limit of $125,000.

You can also create your own affidavit from scratch. By law, an affidavit of small succession must include:

  • The decedent's date of death and official residence
  • The fact that the decedent died without a will (unless the will is being probated in another state)
  • The marital status of the decedent, and name and address of any surviving spouse
  • The name, relationship, and last known address of each hier
  • A statement that any heir not signing the affidavit either could not be located after a reasonably diligent search, or was given 10 days notice by U.S. mail of the intent to execute an affidavit for small succession and did not object
  • A description of the property left by the deceased, each item's individual value, whether it was community property or separate, and the aggregate value of the entire estate
  • The percent interest each heir has in the succession, and whether a legal usufruct (the right to use and collect any income from the asset) of the surviving spouse attaches to the property
  • An affirmation that, by signing the affidavit, the affiant, if an heir, has accepted the succession of the deceased
  • An affirmation that, by signing the affidavit, the affiants swear under penalty of perjury that the information contained in the affidavit is true, correct and complete to the best of their knowledge, information, and belief.

Each signature on the affidavit must be notarized. The affidavit must be signed by the surviving spouse and at least one major heir. If no surviving spouse exists, the affidavit must be signed by at least 2 heirs. If only 1 heir exists, the affidavit must be signed by a second person who has actual knowledge of the situation.

See LA Code Civ Pro § 3421 et seq.

Unadministered Succession

If you cannot or do not want to use a Small Succession Affidavit, the next simplest approach is to settle the estate via an unadministered succession, in which you file certain documents with the court to obtain a Judgment of Possession, transferring title to the decedent’s assets.


In general, a Louisiana estate can be settled via an unadministered succession if all the inheritors agree to do so.

If the decedent left a will, it is also required that no estate creditor has demanded an administration (see LA Code Civ Pro 3031).

If the decedent died intestate (i.e., with no will), then the estate must have no debts other than expenses of estate administration, mortgages that are paid current, and other debts that are small in comparison with the assets of the succession (see LA Code Civ Pro 3001).

It is not actually required for the estate to qualify as "small" to use this process, but if it does, court fees are cut in half and an executor can charge a fee no greater than 5% of the gross succession assets.


To proceed with unadministered succession:

  • Submit to the court a Petition for Probate, along with an Affidavit of Death, Jurisdiction, and Heirship, a Sworn Detailed Descriptive List, and a Petition for Possession (see LA Forms).
  • The court will order a Judgment of Possession, legally transferring ownership of the assets
  • Collect estate assets by presenting the Judgment to current custodians of estate property
  • Settle the estate in the normal manner: resolve any estate obligations and distribute remaining assets to heirs

Under this process, if an executor wants to sell estate assets, he or she must publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the parish where the succession was opened. The property must be sold in at least 10, but not more than 15, days from the date of publication. Special publication requirements apply.

See LA Code Civ Pro Title II.

Estate Settlement Considerations

Before paying any debts or making any distributions, be sure to account for any Family Entitlements in LA, which typically have priority over everything except expenses of the last illness, funeral charges, and any estate administrations expenses.

Even if the estate does not go through probate, you may still be entitled to Executor Compensation in LA, and this compensation also has priority over most estate debts.

Estate debts have priority over most distributions in turn, so before distributing assets you should resolve any estate debts. If the estate makes any distributions beyond amounts set aside for family entitlements, unpaid creditors have the right to sue the recipients for repayment using those excess distributions. Consequently, even if the settlement process does not require you to publish a Notice to Creditors, you may want to follow LA probate rules for finding estate debts, since doing so may limit the time creditors have to pursue repayment.

If estate solvency is uncertain, an executor should consider going through official probate for the increased creditor protection it offers. Alternately, such uncertainty can sometimes persuade creditors to forgive a portion of debts, since they will want to avoid legal expenses as well, and may prefer to get something rather than nothing.

See also Making Distributions.


In Louisiana, the local District Court handles wills and estate succession.

Additional Information

If your estate doesn't qualify for a small estate approach, or you're simply interested in exploring standard probate, take a look at Probate in LA.

And since probate is just the court-supervised subset of winding up a person's affairs after death, you'll probably want to check out our Complete Guide to Estate Settlement in LA.

Finally, in case you're interested, details about handling small estates in other states can be found here:

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