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My wife and I live in Louisiana. We both have Wills leaving every thing we own to the one that survives to the other. Wife dies.

Pearl River, LA |

Our property is in both our names. Do I have to have probate or open succession and if so can I do this myself or I need a lawyer? And what it might cost?

Attorney Answers 4


  1. I am very sorry for your loss. You may be able to do this yourself, but I strongly urge you to meet with an experienced estate lawyer to discuss the titling of you and your wife's assets and the beneficiary designations for her contract assets (life insurance policies, retirement accounts, etc). The attorney will then advise you as to the best steps forward from here. As for fees, each attorney sets his or her own fees. Accordingly, please raise this issue at your initial meeting with the lawyer. Good luck to you.

    This information is presented as a public service. It should not be construed to be formal legal advice nor considered to be the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. I am licensed in Connecticut and New York and my answers are based upon the law in those jurisdictions. My answer to any specific question would likely be different if I were to review a client's file and have the opportunity to interview the client. Accordingly, I strongly urge you to retain an attorney in your jurisdiction with respect to any legal matter.


  2. Assuming the will was done properly you're in good shape. Even without a will as a surviving spouse you would be entitled to what's known as a usufruct over your wife's half of the property during your lifetime (or if you remarried). You do need to have the will probated. The cost and length of time will depend on a number of things such as whether there is anyone who for some reason would contest the will, the amount of property involved and so on. I suggest you hire an attorney after meeting with a few and discussing your situation. A good attorney can ask the right questions to figure out how complicated or uncomplicated your situation might be and will be able to give you a good estimate of what everything will cost.

    Don't forget to check "Helpful" if I helped you out. This response is not intended to create an attorney client relationship and is based on the limited information available at the time of the response. Before acting on anything stated or referenced in this response you should consult with an attorney of your choosing and go over the specific details of your legal circumstances. My responses are also given in the context of the laws of the State of Louisiana. To the extent this comment involves principles of law governed by another state my comment merely reflects my opinion and should not be considered legal advice.


  3. Dear Sir in Louisiana:

    Assuming all accounts are entitled, (using your names) "Husband and Wife, joint tenants with right of survivorship" and the house was jointly owned, all should pass to you by operation of law without going through a probate.

    Check how each bank account, C.D. or stock account is "entitled". Make sure you examine the "end of year" statements like 1099 to see if there is any account in the sole name of your wife which would require probate.

    Good Luck.

    Leonard Feld

    The foregoing is based on the little information provided; additional facts may change the comments given.


  4. Mr. Mitchell's answer is correct. The answer from the New York attorney is not. Louisiana does not recognize joint tenancy as a form of holding ownership of immovable property (called "real property" in other states). It is important to open the succession, though. The most difficult (and expensive) cases I see are those where families have put off opening successions for years, and for each death, the ownership of the property becomes more tangled. Check with estate planning attorneys. Many will offer a free consultation. Find one you're comfortable with and get the succession done.

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