Short answer: recordation is not necessary where title is transferred by operation of law. However, we advise our clients to file all succession proceedings and the judgment of possession in the parish where the immovable is located.
Louisiana’s public records doctrine is a race to the courthouse, first in time, first in right doctrine. Knowledge of a prior purchase is irrelevant to the legitimacy of a transaction. So long as the transaction is recorded first, it will prevail. Thus, documenting a transfer of an immovable (real property), a mineral servitude or mineral royalty (incorporeal immovables; mineral rights) is tantamount to its legitimacy.
The custom of Louisiana courts in a testate or intestate death is to open a succession, and to issue a judgment of possession naming the decedent’s heirs and their rights in the property of the succession. The public records doctrine, however, does not apply to successions. Registry is not required when ownership of or a claim to rights in immovable property has been acquired by inheritance and title is vested by operation of law. Thus the courts will preserve the rights of an heir or legatee against third party purchasers even when such rights were not included in the judgment of possession recorded in the parish where the immovable is located. There is a two-year prescriptive period from recordation of the judgment of possession after which a purchaser of immovable property from the persons named in the judgment is protected against an adverse attack on the judgment.
When purchasing rights in an immovable from heirs or legatees, including an oil and gas lease, mineral servitudes or mineral royalties, we advise our clients to obtain copies of the succession proceedings and to record them in the parish where the immovable is located. This should specifically include copies of the petition for possession, the inventory, the affidavit of death and heirship, the will, the judgment of possession, and when required, the inheritance tax return and the Federal Estate Tax return. In testate deaths, examination of the will is critical as it may contain rights in heirs not described or included in the judgment of possession. Said rights will be enforceable against third party purchasers, as the public records doctrine does not apply. It is additionally advisable to quickly record your instrument to ensure a subsequent purchaser who records first in time does not extinguish your rights in the immovable.