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.
Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate, and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.
To learn more about these types of assets, go to the How to Avoid Probate section of Nolo.com.
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||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 or children||parents have the right to use your intestate property for life, then your siblings inherit everything|
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 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.
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.
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.
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, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, or cousins.
Here are a few other things to know about Louisiana intestacy laws.
To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled If There's 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" from the dropdown menu 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.