Intestate Succession in Louisiana

What happens if you die without a will? Learn about intestacy in Louisiana

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If you die without a will in Louisiana, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state “intestate succession” laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Louisiana.

Which Assets Pass by Intestate Succession

Only assets that would have passed through your will are affected by intestate succession laws. Usually, that includes only assets that you own alone, in your own name.

Many valuable assets don’t go through your will, and aren’t affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples: 

  • property you’ve transferred to a living trust
  • life insurance proceeds
  • funds in an IRA, 401(k), or other retirement account
  • payable-on-death bank accounts, or
  • property you own with someone else in joint tenancy.

These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will.

To learn more about these types of assets, go to the How to Avoid Probate section of Nolo.com.

Who Gets What in Louisiana?

Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here’s a quick overview:

If you die with: here’s what happens:
  • children but no spouse, parents, or siblings
  • children inherit everything
  • spouse but no children, parents, or siblings
  • spouse inherits everything
  • parents but no children, spouse, or siblings
  • parents inherit everything
  • siblings but no children, spouse, or parents
  • siblings inherit everything
  • a spouse and children
  • spouse has the right to use your share of the community property for life; this is called a “usufruct”
  • children inherit your share of community property subject to the surviving spouse’s right to use it for life, plus all of your separate property
  • a spouse and parents
  • spouse inherits all your community property
  • parents inherit your separate property
  • a spouse and siblings, but no parents
  • spouse inherits all of your community property
  • siblings inherit your separate property
  • siblings and parents, but no spouse
  • parents have the right to use your intestate property for life, then your siblings inherit everything
  •  

    The Spouse’s Share in Louisiana

    In Louisiana, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends in part on how the two of you owned your property -- as separate property or community property. Generally, community property is property acquired while you were married, and separate property is property you acquired before marriage. There are a couple of big exceptions: Gifts and inheritances given to one spouse are separate property, even if acquired during marriage.

    If you want to learn more about how community property works, read Separate and Community Property During Marriage: Who Owns What?

    If you die without parents, siblings, or descendants -- that is, children, grandchildren, or great grandchildren -- your spouse will inherit all of your property. If you do have descendants, your spouse will share your property with them according to the rules set out in the chart just above. Likewise, if you die with parents or siblings, they will split your intestate property with your spouse.

    There is a special rule for real estate in Louisiana. If an ancestor gave you a gift of real estate, and you die without children, the real estate will pass back to the ancestor when you die.

    If you and your spouse are legally separated -- but not yet divorced -- when you die without a will, your spouse will not be entitled to your property.

    If you’re concerned about this area of the law, see an experienced attorney for help.

    Children’s Shares in Louisiana

    If you die without a will in Louisiana, your children will receive an “intestate share” of your property. The size of each child’s share depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. (See the table above.)

    For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, the state of Louisiana must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it’s not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.

    • Adopted children. Children you legally adopted will receive an intestate share, just as your biological children do.
    • Foster children and stepchildren. Foster children and stepchildren you never legally adopted will not automatically receive a share.
    • Children placed for adoption. In Louisiana, children you placed for adoption and who were legally adopted by another family are entitled to an intestate share of your estate. (Louisiana Children’s Code, Article 1218.)
    • Posthumous children. Children conceived by you but not born before your death will receive a share
    • Children born outside of marriage. If you were not married to your children’s mother when she gave birth to them, they will receive a share if (1) you have acknowledged your paternity, or (2) your paternity has been proved in court.
    • Children born during your marriage. Any child born to your wife during your marriage is assumed to be your child and will receive a share of your estate.
    • Grandchildren. Your grandchildren will receive a share only if their parent (your child) has died before you do.

    This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney.

    Will the State Get Your Property?

    If you die without a will and don’t have any family, your property will “escheat” into the state’s coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won’t go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, aunts or uncles, great uncles or aunts, nieces or nephews, cousins of any degree, or the children, parents, or siblings of a spouse who dies before you do.

    Other Louisiana Intestate Succession Rules

    Here are a few other things to know about Louisiana intestacy laws.

    • Half-siblings. Unlike most states, in Louisiana, half-siblings do not inherit the same share as full-blood siblings. The rules are confusing, so you may want to speak with an experienced estate planning lawyer if this situation applies to you.
    • Posthumous relatives. Relatives conceived before -- but born after -- you die inherit as if they had been born while you were alive.
    • Immigration status. Relatives entitled to an intestate share of your property will inherit whether or not they are citizens or legally in the United States.

    Learn More

    To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled When There is No Will.

    You can find Louisiana’s intestate succession laws in Articles 880 to 899 of the Louisiana Civil Code. To read the code, go to the website of the Louisiana State Legislature. Select “Civil Code” and enter “880” in the “Article” box. You will be able to browse the law from there.

    For more about estate planning, go to the Wills, Trusts & Probate section of Nolo.com.

    Need a lawyer? Search for an experienced estate planning attorney with Nolo’s Lawyer Directory.

    by: , J.D.

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