Children have the right to inherit property from their parents in Louisiana, but what happens if a child was born outside of marriage? Non-marital children may inherit property from their mothers and may inherit property from their fathers in some situations.
Children born out of wedlock have these rights now, but historically, this wasn't the case. In 1968, the United States Supreme Court heard the case of Levy v. Louisiana. The court held that denying non-marital children a wrongful death recovery after a parent's death was discriminatory and violated the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution. This decision helped secure the inheritance rights of illegitimate children.
What Happens When a Father Creates a Will
A father can create a will and leave property to anyone he wants to inherit his property. In most cases, paternity does not need to be established for a father to leave a child property in a will. The child's right to receive the inheritance left in the will may be challenged, however, if the will was not properly executed, or there was another problem that made the will invalid.
Another issue that could impact a child's inheritance rights when a parent leaves a will is the issue of forced heirs. In Louisiana, a parent may not exclude children under the age of 24 or children of any age who are unable to take care of themselves because of physical or mental incapacities.
Forced heirs could impact the inheritance of an illegitimate child if:
- The illegitimate child is a forced heir. If paternity is established and a child born out of wedlock is a forced heir who was not included in the will, that child may have the right to pursue an inheritance.
- There are other forced heirs. Other forced heirs could reduce the inheritance of an illegitimate child who was included in the will.
Children's Intestacy Rights When a Father Dies Without a Will
If a parent dies without a will, Louisiana law decides who inherits the parent's property. When an unwed parent dies, the children inherit all of the property. When a parent is married at the time of death, the children still inherit all of the parent's property subject to the spouse's lifetime interest in the community property.
Rights of Non-Marital Children
While Louisiana intestacy law allows children to inherit a father's estate, the children's identity may be contested. Of course, a person may become a parent without ever being married. However, children born out of wedlock may only inherit property in a Louisiana intestate succession if one of the following is true:
- The father acknowledged paternity during his lifetime
- Paternity is proven in court
Typically, parents can establish paternity by completing and properly executing an Acknowledgement of Paternity Affidavit. Alternatively, if the alleged parents disagree over paternity, a parent may file a paternity lawsuit to prove whether a specific person is the child's father. Then, the court will decide the issue of paternity. Once paternity is established, the child has the same inheritance rights as a child born to two spouses during marriage.
If You Have Questions About Your Louisiana Inheritance
Both intestate successions and testate successions with forced heirs are complicated. Whether you are a non-marital child or another potential heir, you need to make sure your rights are protected and you get the fair inheritance you deserve pursuant to Louisiana law.
Our experienced New Orleans succession lawyers help hundreds of families throughout Louisiana each year and have likely dealt with a situation like yours in the past. During this challenging time when you are grieving, we can help identify all possible solutions to your succession issues.
We know that you want to settle your family issue as quickly as possible, and our succession attorneys will provide you with quick and cost-effective options. Contact us today to learn more about your rights.