1. What is a succession?
In a nutshell, a succession is the process in which property is transferred upon someone’s death. It is also used to refer to the estate a person leaves behind at death.
2. What happens to property when a person dies WITHOUT a will?
With separate property: This includes property owned before marriage and inherited property of the deceased spouse. WITHOUT a will, a spouse receives NONE of the deceased spouse’s separate property; it is given to the descendants or parents.
With community property: This is property acquired by the couple while married. WITHOUT a will, the deceased’s half of the property is transferred to the descendants, and the spouse still owns their own half of the property. The spouse will have usufruct of the deceased’s half until death or remarriage (whichever is first). If no descendants, the deceased’s half goes to the surviving spouse.
*Usufruct = the person who inherits the right to use the property.
3. What happens to property when a person dies WITH a will?
With a will, the deceased can specify exactly who inherits before anyone else, including the spouse. If there are forced heirs, they must inherit a portion, but the will can assign the rest to the spouse (or anyone else).
*Forced heir = any child of the deceased who is under the age of 24. A forced heir can also be a child, any age, who is permanently disabled.
4. Who can sell property of the deceased?
Real estate professionals will want to ensure that the person trying to sell any property has the proper authority to do so. This can mean the person selling has a judgement of possession or has been appointed as independent administrator/executor. If the person trying to sell has a usufruct, or is a non-independent administrator/executor then all heirs must agree to sell, or get court approval to sell.
5. Who do you need on your team when opening a succession?
To “open” a succession, you need an estate attorney. You do not need anyone else until you become the property owner and are ready to sell. Then, you just need a knowledgeable and proficient title company.
6. Does all property have to go through a succession?
No, some “property” is not considered a part of your succession. Usually, property paid directly to a named payee by a third party is not subject to succession laws (i.e. life insurance).
7. Why should I write a will?
Your will decides who inherits your property, no questions asked (with the exception of forced heirs as seen in Q3). It can also assign guardians for minor children, create trusts, make provisions for estate taxes, remove doubt as to what you want done with your property after your death.
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