Successions Dictionary

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Authored By: Lagniappe Law Lab

How To Use This Successions' Dictionary

At the top of each section of this successions' dictionary, you will see a list of commonly used words in alphabetical order. Click on any word to jump to that word's definition in this dictionary.

Words Used in Louisiana Succession Cases


Absent Persons

A person who has no representative in this state and whose whereabouts are unknown, even with diligent efforts to find the person. Absent persons have been referred to as the “living dead” because there is no clear evidence as to whether the person is dead or alive; neither a representative nor a body can be found. This deals with the property at the time of the disappearance and how the property goes through succession to divide the property.


 Acceptance and Renunciation

A successor may choose to accept their rights in the succession. In opposition, a successor may choose to renounce their rights in the succession.


Administration of the Will

This refers to carrying out the process of the division and transfer of property, as directed by the language of the will. The administrator ensures that each heir or person with a right to the decedent’s property and estate gets their portion fairly, as directed by law.


Administrator of Estate

When there is no will or the will is not valid, then the court will hold a hearing to appoint an Administrator. A person must apply to become the administrator, the courts will not simply choose someone. This person appointed by the court will have a duty to administer the decedent's estate based on the law in the Louisiana Civil Code. Often, the Administrator is usually the surviving spouse, domestic partner, or close relative.



A type of document or a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court.


Affidavit of Death, Domicile and Heirship

A legal document that verifies: the decedent’s death, the decedent’s marriages (if any), any other necessary facts to establish the succession is filed in the correct court, and any other necessary facts to establish the identity of the heir(s). If the decedent is divorced, include the divorce judgment, docket number, case name, date, and court where the divorce took place. You can include a death certificate in your petition to support but the affidavit above is the only thing required by the court.



A person who swears to an affidavit, a written statement confirmed by oath or affirmation, for use as evidence in court.



Annuities are usually set up so payments continue for a predetermined number of years or until death occurs. This means that all funds can get withdrawn immediately but may not last as long as originally expected. Usually in an annuity a person can take out money each year so that there are still funds left over when the payout ends. You can inherit an annuity from a decedent.



A family member who came before you in the direct family line. Common examples are mother, father, grandfather, grandmother, great-grandmother, etc.



Beneficiaries are the people named in the will who inherit from someone who has died with a will, i.e. testate. A beneficiary could be a person (or multiple people), the trustee of a trust set-up, a charity or nonprofit, a minor (child under 18 years of age), or your estate (in the case of a life insurance policy). There are three types of beneficiaries; irrevocable, revocable, and contingent.



A person’s ability to enter binding contracts, i.e. accept a succession. It means the ability to use and understand information to make a decision and communicate any decision made. E.g., capacity rules often require a person to reach a minimum age and have a soundness of mind.



Term for an amendment to the last will and testament.



Collaterals commonly include aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and cousins


Collateral Line

This pertains to the hierarchy of heirs in an intestate succession in order to determine who will inherit the property. Count from the potential successor up to the common ancestor and count back down to the decedent. 


Community Property

Property of married persons is either community or separate. In most cases, property acquired during a marriage will be community property. The major exceptions are property acquired by donation or inheritance to a single spouse. That property is the spouse’s separate property.


Conditions under Reprobated Dispositions

Conditions that are impossible, immoral, or contrary to the law are null. As a general rule, the condition will read out, but the donation will stand


Corporeal Moveables

Corporeal movables are things, whether animate or inanimate, that normally move or can be moved from one place to another. For example, a vehicle. 


Custodian of the Will

The person who has the will at the time of the person's death is the custodian of the will.



A decedent is a legal term for someone who passed away, often used in estate planning documents. When a person dies, they become a decedent.


Decedent's Estate

Anything owned by a person at the time of their death.



A deed is a legal document that gets signed and delivered to convey property rights. This especially is a legal document about the ownership of property or legal rights. i.e. A deed can go to the children for the ownership of land.


Descendant's Naked Ownership

The descendants are considered to be “naked owners” during the period of the usufruct. Security may be required from the usufructuary to protect the rights of the naked owners.



The term descendants refer to the deceased person's children and grandchildren (including adopted or illegitimate but formally acknowledged or timely established filiation), or their representatives. The children (or their descendants) take to the exclusion of other heirs. e.g. consider a mother who has two daughters, her only living relations, and dies intestate, leaving an estate of $100,000. Since the two daughters occupy the same proximity of blood relationship to their mother, they share her estate equally, each inheriting $50,000.


Descendant's Naked Ownership

The descendants are considered to be “naked owners” during the period of the usufruct. Security is generally required from the usufructuary to protect the rights of the naked owners.


Descendants Subject to Surviving Spouse Usufruct

If the deceased died with descendants, they share the decedent’s 1⁄2 share of community property subject to the surviving spouse’s usufruct. This intestate usufruct over community property terminates when the surviving spouse dies or remarries.



An unexercised right gets passed to successor(s).


Direct Line of Degrees

Each generation equals a degree.


Direct Relationship

The series of degrees forms the line. The direct line is the series of degrees between persons who descend one from another. In the direct line, the number of degrees is equal to the number of generations between the heir and the deceased.


Effective Period of a Living Will

A person is alive and living in a physical sense but cannot survive without medical help. Then, a living will is effective.



Includes all the property, rights, and obligations of the deceased person. It also accounts for debts or expenses accruing after death.


Estate Debts

Debts of the decedent and administration expenses. Debts of the decedent are obligations of the decedent or those that arise as a result of his death, such as the cost of his funeral and burial.



A person named in a will or that the court appoints to carry out the administration of the will. The person(s) who administers an estate for a will. In Louisiana, the executor of the estate is responsible under law to deal with all aspects of an estate. In basic terms, the executor takes the place of the decedent to settle the estate. The executor distributes the assets of the estate until the estate gets settled. For example, a wife dies. The husband would seek an attorney and file to be named executor over the estate.



The feminine form of the word “executor” is "executrix." 


Executor's Allotment

The portion of pay from the estate that the executor receives for administering the estate. The allotment is 2.5% of the estate.


Forced Heir

Forced heirs are descendants of the first degree at the time of the decedent's death. They are twenty-three years old or younger (i.e. a right until the twenty-fourth birthday of the heir) OR they are incapable of taking care of their person or administering an estate. This incapability is because of severe physical or mental infirmity, regardless of their age. They may also have an inherited, incurable condition, supported by medical records. The condition of the person makes the person incapable of taking care of their person or estate.


Forms of Testaments

There are two forms of testaments: olographic and notarial.


Form Requirements of Notorial Testament

This type of will means the will is in writing, dated, and signed in the testator's handwriting. Must also include the presence of a notary public - and 2 witnesses.


General Property Succession 

Term for the legal procedure for successions $125,000 or greater. Intestate succession occurs without a will and a general property succession can get opened to divide the decedent’s estate.



If a deceased does not leave descendants, siblings or their descendants, a spouse not judicially separated, his other ascendants succeed to his separate property. If the ascendants in the paternal and maternal lines are in the same degree, the property is divided into two equal shares, one of which goes to the ascendants on the paternal side, and the other to the ascendants on the maternal side, whether the number of ascendants on each side be equal or not. In this case, the ascendants in each line inherit by heads.


Gross Value of the Estate 

Gross value of the estate is a term used to describe the total dollar value of an individual's assets. The gross value of the estate is the amount at the time of the person's death. A gross value estate does not consider the debts owed and tax liabilities.



An heir inherits the estate of a person who died by relationship, descent, a will, or legal process. The Louisiana Civil Code determines who is an heir and how an heir inherits a decedent's property. Also see - intestacy, unworthy compare ancestor, devisee, legatee, next of kin, successor.



Heirship means the person is the legal heir of someone who died without a will, i.e. intestate. Heirs are different from beneficiaries. When there is no will, heirship is created.  The Louisiana Civil Code determines who is an heir and how an heir inherits a decedent's property. Also see - intestacy, unworthy compare ancestor, devisee, legatee, next of kin, successor. 


Heirs' Property

Heirs' property is real property that is passed down from generation to generation in a way that multiple people own the same piece of property. Typically, the last known deed for the real property is in the name of the deceased relative. Heirs' property is created when the owner dies without a Last Will and Testament and their real property passes to their heirs at law according to Louisiana Code or when the owner dies without a last will and testament that leaves their real property to multiple beneficiaries.


Holographic Will

A will that is hand-written, signed and binding under law.


Immovable Property

Immovable property means all things fixed and cannot move by nature, object, or law. Such as a house. 


Incapacity and Unworthiness

An heir may lose the capacity to succeed by law. This may happen if there are instances such as an actual intention and act or attempt to act by killing.


Incompetent Witness(es)

A person cannot be a witness to a testament if the person is insane in legal terms, blind, under the age of 16, or unable to sign their name. A person who is competent but deaf or unable to read cannot be a witness to a notorial testament under Article 1579.


Incorporeal Moveables

Rights, obligations, and actions that apply to a movable thing are incorporeal movables. Movables of this kind are such as bonds, annuities, and interests or shares in entities possessing juridical personality. Interests or shares in a juridical person that owns immovables are considered as movables as long as the entity exists; upon its dissolution, the right of each individual to a share in the immovables is an immovable.


Intestate Succession

Type of succession that occurs when: (1) The person dies without a will, (2) Will is invalid, in whole or in part, (3) Will does not dispose of the entirety of the decedent's property


Judgment of Possession

A judgment of possession is a court order that allows the formal legal transfer of the decedent’s assets to their heirs or beneficiaries.


Juridical Person

A juridical person is a non-human legal person. They are entities, such as a corporation or governmental agencies, that are given legal rights and obligations.


Last Will and Testament

A will is not effective until death; generally, the last will written by date is the one that controls. The last will made will generally revoke all other prior wills.


Law of representation in successions

The law of representation in successions allows one who would not inherit in their own right to act. The representative has the rights of the person represented.


Legal Protections by Forced Portion to Forced Heirs

At the time of the decedent's death, law protects a forced heir to the estate. The law requires a certain part of the estate, called the "forced-portion" be set aside for the forced heir.



A legatee is any entity or person who received an inheritance from a will.



The portion of the decedent's estate that is reserved to him/her by law. For example, a forced heir may not be deprived of the legitime, unless the decedent has just cause to disinherit them. 


Letters Testamentary

This document grants the executor or executrix the authority to administer the deceased person's estate. 


Liens (Tax Liens)

A tax lien means that the government has made a legal claim against the property because of neglect or failure to pay a tax debt.


Life Estate

A life estate is when a person (called a life tenant) owns real property for the life and full ownership of the real property transfers to someone else (called “the remainderman) upon the life tenant’s death


Living Will

A living will is a document or advanced directive in writing. It specifies the type of medical treatment that a person may want if they cannot communicate. This could be critical for a person with a sudden emergency and severe illness - when a person gets diagnosed with a terminal and irreversible condition. i.e. In effect, the living will can prevent maintaining life on a respirator.


Living Trust 

A living trust is a document that an individual creates during their lifetime. It gives a designated person, the trustee, responsibility to manage that individual's assets. This must get managed to the benefit of the eventual beneficiary. A living trust allows for the easy transfer of the trust's assets while bypassing probate.


Movable Property

Property that can get moved from one place to another. I.e. personal items like clothing and jewelry, household goods such as furniture and appliances, and other items including animals and cars. "Prima facie" evidence of the right(s) of the heir(s) of the decedent.



One person will inherit the right to use the property. One person will inherit the right to sell or mortgage property. e.g. House - One person may live in a house. Another person may have the right to sell the house.


Net value of the estate

The remaining sum of the value of the estate after liabilities get deducted from the gross value.


Non-community property

Inheritance(s) and/or Donation(s)


No Heir(s)

If there are no heirs, in default of blood, adopted relations, or a spouse not judicially separated, the estate of the deceased belongs to the state. This situation is extremely rare.


Notarial Testament

A notarial testament requires that the will be in writing and dated. It must be with the presence of two witnesses. A valid notarial will must get sworn to and signed in the presence of both witnesses and testator.  A notarial testament is one that is executed in accordance with the formalities of Articles 1577 through 1580.1.


Olographic Testament

A type of will executed with certain formalities - includes the presence of a notary public - and 2 witnesses. This type of will means the will is in writing, dated, and signed in the testator's handwriting.


Ownership by Accession

A method of acquiring ownership of property. Accession refers to additions to existing property to change the property. This results in new property created.


Parents and siblings

If the deceased leaves no descendants but is survived by a father, mother, or both, and by a brother or sister, or both, or descendants from them, the brothers and sisters or their descendants succeed to the separate property of the deceased subject to a usufruct in favor of the surviving parent or parents.


Payable on Death (POD)

This is a bank account with a named beneficiary. People who use a POD account may keep their money and assets out of the probate court. It is easy to convert and transfer a POD account.


Personal Property

An individual's belongings, excluding any real estate property or buildings. Personal property generally includes tangible and intangible assets of an individual. Excludes real property.


Petition for Letters of Administration

The Administrator of the Estate file these written papers in court. This begins the process for the administrator to administer the decedent's property.


Petition for Possession

Term for the documents by heirs for possession. The Petition includes facts such as: the competency of the petitioners; the date of the death of the deceased, and all other facts on which the jurisdiction (where and why you can file) of the court is based; the facts showing that the petitioners are the sole heirs of the deceased; and that the succession is relatively free of debt.


Petition for Possession of Surviving Spouse

This term refers to the similar petition for possession documents but relates to the surviving spouse with regards to community property. The documents include the same facts as above in the Petition for Possession but also include: facts showing that the surviving spouse is in possession of community property with the decedent; states that the property belonged to the community; and any claims of a usufruct in the interest of community property (and if entitled to the usufruct).


Presumption of Community Property

All things acquired and accumulated by a married couple while married. Under Louisiana law, the presumption of marriage is community property.


Presumption of Ownership of Movable Property

The presumption of ownership of movable property is the owner is the possessor. The previous possessor is the owner during their possession of the movable property.


Presumption of Survivorship In a Common Disaster

If no facts show who died first in the event of a common disaster, each person is presumed to have survived the other.



Deals with the division of property of the property of a decedent at the moment of death. In Louisiana, this probate is also called a succession.


Prohibited substitution

Given in full ownership; by donor to donee; who must preserve it; and who must deliver it; at the death; to the second named donee (called the substitute)


Property Title 

A property title is a formal legal document that shows ownership of property. In general, the first person to file proper title with the court owns the property. This person can be the title owner without others knowing about their ownership. Title may not be valid if it was not filed with the local clerk or it does not identify the correct current owner. If you don't have a title you can lose the property.


Real Property

A term that includes things like land or immovable property on land such as buildings.


Remote collateral relatives

If the deceased has no surviving descendants, parents, siblings (or their descendants), surviving spouse not judicially separated, or ascendants, his other collaterals succeed to his separate property. Among collateral relatives, the nearest in degree excludes all others. If there are several in the same degree, they share equally and by heads.



Is the act of being another's agent or acting as an attorney for a client.


Representation Ad Infinitum

Representation takes place ad infinitum in the direct line of descendants.



A renunciation is the formal rejection of something, i.e. a beneficiary can reject a will by formal means.


Right of Retention

The possessor retains a right of possession of a thing, whether in good or bad faith. The right of possession lasts until the possessor pays back. A claim for reimbursing expenses and improvements gives the possessor the right.


Right of Reversion

Term that refers to a specific property and an interest held by the prior owner in property given to another. On the happening of some kind of future event, the property goes back being held by the prior owner.


Separate Property

Includes all property: Owned before marriage, inherited property, property given to one of the spouses or property that a spouse acquires with money that is separate form the community property.


Small Property Affidavit Succession 

A term to describe the legal procedure to help someone collect property owed to them and formerly belonged to someone who died. It allows the persons to avoid the administration process through the courts. It is available for estate values of less than $125,000.


Spendthrift Heir

A person who is an heir that spends money in an imprudent or wasteful way. A spendthrift heir might be quick to waste a lump sum of their inheritance. Other heirs may run up large debts they are unable to pay. Wills and trusts that include spendthrift provisions protect your heirs from creditors.


Substitutions under Reprobated Dispositions

Whether a substitution is null or not depends on if it is a prohibited substitution or permissive solution.



A Succession is the process of settling a deceased person's estate and distributing the property after debts are repaid. This process is called 'Probate' in other states.



A successor is a person that follows another i.e. one that succeeds to a title or estate; that are entitled to rights in the estate. 


Succession Representative

The term includes an administrator, provisional administrator, administrator of a vacant successor, executor, and dative testamentary executor.


Surviving Spouse

Person is the partner of the decedent under valid law. Must not be separated by any type of judicial order.


Tenants in Common

Multiple people who own real property concurrently are called Tenants in Common. This is the form of ownership for heirs property. Tenants in common have equal rights to full use and possession of the real property and cannot exclude another Tenant in Common from living on or using the real property. Each owner is legally responsible for taxes and other real property-related expenses and is jointly and severally liable for personal injuries on the real property, putting all owners’ assets at risk. Every owner must be in agreement to sell or mortgage the property. Any owner can convey their interest to another person or seek a partition action forcing a court-ordered sale of the real property.


Sworn, Descriptive List of Assets and Liabilities

This term refers to the sworn descriptive list of assets and liabilities to include in all of the decedent’s assets at the time of death. You do not need to include debts in this list. The list should include all the fair market values of the decedent’s property at the time of death. An heir and interested party must sign the document.


Testate Succession

A succession in which the decedent had a valid will or testament.



The person who has the right to use the property has a "usufruct" until their own individual moment of death. When that person dies, the person who has naked ownership gets the usufruct. The person becomes full owner of the property; i.e. the right to use, sell, or mortgage property. There are many challenging rules about what a usufruct can and cannot do. You may find an attorney to consult about more specific issues beyond the scope of this information.


Vulgar Substitution

A donation made to one donee that provides if the first donee cannot take the gift, then it will go to the second donee. A vulgar substation is not null. e.g. the testator may include a requirement that the legatee survive him for a period of time no longer than six months.


Will / Last Will and Testament

A legal paper that lists a person's wishes about what will happen to their property, after their death.  A will is not effective until death; generally the last will written by date is the one which controls. The last will made will generally revoke all other prior wills.


Last Review and Update: Jun 20, 2022
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