Asset distribution in Louisiana depends largely on numerous factors, such as:
- Do you have a will?
- Are you married?
- Do you have children?
The main two being whether you died without a will (intestate) or had executed a valid Louisiana Last Will & Testament before you died (testate).
You can largely determine where your assets will end up in your will. Obviously, there are a few exceptions, such as whether you have what is known as forced heirs. This is discussed in depth in another of our articles.
You call the shots when you have a will directing your wishes. You can give away your property to who you want and in the percentages and ownership type you desire. You can give someone full ownership or usufruct (“use”) of your property. It’s up to you. More about “usufruct” here.
If you die without a will (intestate), it’s a whole different ball-game. The State of Louisiana has devised a body of law that determines where and to whom your property will go. You may not always agree with their decision, but it’s what we have to do if you do not have a will.
Let’s break down what happens if you die without a will in Louisiana
Community Property under Louisiana Intestate Law:
There are basically two (2) scenarios when dealing with a deceased individual’s community property.
- Surviving spouse with no children: Your surviving spouse gets all of the community property in full ownership. Remember, they already own their ½ and now they get your ½ to complete ownership.
- Surviving spouse with surviving descendants: Your surviving spouse receives usufruct “use” over the deceased individual’s ½ of the community property and the descendants receive naked ownership. This type of usufruct ends when the surviving spouse remarries or dies. At that point, the property will pass to the descendants in full ownership. (This is where we see the most issues. You can alleviate the usufruct issue by executing a valid Last Will and Testament giving your spouse either a lifetime usufruct or full ownership.)
Separate Property under Louisiana Intestate Law
Your separate property goes to your family (relatives) if you die without a will in Louisiana. It does not go to your surviving spouse in any capacity. You can fix this by executing a will as we’ve mentioned before. There really isn’t any wiggle room if there is not a will present; Louisiana law is strict and it must be adhered to.
- Surviving descendants: a person’s separate property is first distributed to their children over all other relatives. The children will receive the property equally if there are more than one child. This includes biological children as well as legally adopted.
If any of the deceased’s children have predeceased them, then their children will take part in the same way their deceased parent would have had he/she survived.
- Surviving parents and siblings, but no surviving descendants: If you do not have any surviving descendants, your separate property will go to your brothers and sisters in equal portions. Your parents will receive a usufruct over this property if they are still alive.
- No parents or descendants, but surviving siblings: Your brothers and sisters will share equally in your separate property. Doesn’t matter if you are married and haven’t seen your siblings in eons, they still inherit your separate property if you do not have a will in place. It gets even more complicated if you have half siblings.
- No descendants, siblings, but your parents are still alive: Your parents will inherit your separate property to the exclusion of your spouse.
We do a high volume of Louisiana intestate successions and have seen quite a few issues between family members who thought they were entitled to the deceased’s property. There are almost always unwanted surprises when someone dies without a will in Louisiana as the law may not completely favor your wishes.
We get calls regularly asking for a Louisiana intestate succession chart so they can figure out who gets what. The best and safest way to determine this is to schedule an appointment so that we can look at all of the estate’s property to help you figure it out. We’ve helped a number of families in the Pineville, Alexandria and Marksville area with their successions and will gladly sit down with you and sort it out.
Don’t take anything from this article to be legal advice, every situation is different and you need to speak with an experienced Louisiana succession attorney before making any decisions. The laws change and this post may one day become outdated.
If you want to get ahead of the game and set up your estate properly to ensure your heirs are well taken care of, give us a call and set an appointment and we will go over aspects of Louisiana estate and succession law with you in a one on one setting.
Remember, you can’t change things after you die – you have to set your plan in motion ahead of time to avoid the confusion of Louisiana intestate law and make sure your property goes where you want it to go.
This Louisiana succession article was written for informational purposes only. Do not use this article to make important legal decisions. Instead, contact our offices with any questions you may have about your specific legal situation. Nothing in this website itself constitutes an attorney/client relationship.
Attorney R. Jerome Andries
Andries Law Firm
Louisiana Succession and Estate Planning Attorneys
Phone: (318) 229-1608
“We help clients with succession and estate matters all over the State of Louisiana.”
Similar Louisiana Succession Law Articles: Do I need to Hire a Probate Attorney?, How to Find out What Accounts a Deceased Individual Had, How Long Do I Have to File a Succession in Louisiana?, What Happens When a Spouse Dies Without a Will?, Louisiana Usufruct Law
Offices located in Alexandria, Louisiana, but we handle matters all over the state and are more than happy to help out of state clients file successions in Louisiana.