Louisiana, like other states, has intestacy laws that provide a roadmap for who inherits property when someone dies without a will.
Community Property and Separate Property in Louisiana
If your loved one dies without a will, all of your loved one’s property will be divided into two categories: community property and separate property. Community property is all property that was acquired during marriage and jointly owned by the spouses. Everything else is separate property.
If someone dies and is survived by children, in most cases, the children will become co-owners of the community property with the surviving spouse. If there are no children, the spouse may own the property.
Separate property goes to heirs in the order set forth by Louisiana law. Generally, this order is as follows:
- Surviving spouse
- Ascendants other than parents
- More remote relatives
All separate property will go to the first group of heirs that legally qualifies for inheritance. It’s important to know the different classes of heirs in more detail, so you can anticipate who may have the right to inherit property if your loved one dies without a will.
Louisiana Separate Property Intestate Heirs
All potential heirs deserve honest and reliable information about their rights when a family member dies without a will. To understand your rights, it is essential to know how each class of heirs is defined. In Louisiana, the different classes of heirs include:
Children and Their Descendants
Children of the decedent inherit separate property before anyone else. For purposes of Louisiana succession law, descendants include:
- Children born during a marriage.
- Children adopted by the decedent.
- Children the decedent put up for adoption.
- Children born outside of marriage (illegitimate children) if they were formally acknowledged as children of the decedent. A formal acknowledgment may mean having the parent’s name on the birth certificate, the parent having paid child support, or a judicial or written acknowledgment of paternity or maternity. If none of these things exist, but the parent informally acknowledged the child, the child may bring a filiation action to establish paternity.
- Children or grandchildren of the decedent’s children.
If a person dies with no descendants, separate property should pass to parents and siblings.
Siblings, Their Descendants, and Parents
In this group:
- Brothers and sisters of the decedent will inherit first, subject to a usufruct right of the decedent’s surviving parents. That means, the parents can use and enjoy the property while they are alive, but the siblings own the property.
- If the decedent had more than one sibling, the siblings inherit equal shares of the property.
- If a sibling died before the decedent and has surviving children, those children inherit the sibling’s share.
- If there are no siblings and there are surviving parents, the surviving parents have ownership of the property.
If a person dies without children, other descendants, parents, siblings, or sibling descendants (nieces or nephews), the separate property goes to the surviving spouse.
Without the relatives described previously, all separate property will go to the surviving spouse, if the decedent was married at the time of death.
Ascendants, Such as Grandparents
Without descendants, parents, siblings, or a surviving spouse, a person’s property may be distributed to relatives who come before the decedent in the family tree. In most cases, this means grandparents. If grandparents survive the decedent on both sides of the family, the maternal and paternal grandparents should inherit property in equal shares.
When a person has no children, grandchildren, or other descendants, siblings, nieces, nephews, parents, a spouse, grandparents, or other ascendants, other relatives may inherit property. This situation rarely happens. If it does occur, the relative that is closest in relation to the decedent inherits the property.
Wondering Where You Fall as an Heir?
Intestate successions are often complicated, and you need to make sure that your rights are protected. We understand that you are mourning the loss of your loved one and have questions that need answers. If you need help with an intestate succession, call our experienced Louisiana succession lawyers at (504) 264-1057 as soon as possible to find out how we can help you.