Louisiana succession heirs are defined in state law. Your loved one’s will or the Louisiana intestacy laws will identify who should inherit property.
Sometimes family members don’t agree that an heir should get property, but family members don’t have the right to declare an heir unworthy to inherit. Instead, there are two specific circumstances set forth by Louisiana law that allow a court to declare an heir unworthy.
Louisiana Unworthy Heirs
An unworthy heir is one who has intentionally killed or tried to kill the person whose succession is before the court (the decedent). There are two ways that an heir can be named unworthy. Specifically, an heir is unworthy if:
- The heir is convicted of a crime involving the intentional killing or the attempted killing of the decedent
- The heir is judicially determined to be involved in the intentional, unjustified killing or attempted killing of the decedent
If one of these criteria is met, the heir will be deemed unworthy, and the heir will not be allowed to inherit anything from the decedent unless the heir can prove that he reconciled with the decedent or had the decedent’s forgiveness. Only the decedent can provide reconciliation or forgiveness. A legal pardon or forgiveness by others in the decedent’s family is irrelevant to determining whether an heir is unworthy.
How to Declare an Heir Unworthy
An unworthy heir is not going to ask the court to deem him unworthy. It would go against his financial interests. Additionally, the court is not going to review all potential heirs as a matter of course to determine if any of them may be unworthy. That would be time-consuming, costly, and often unnecessary.
Instead, Louisiana law requires that legal action to declare an heir unworthy be brought by someone who would take the place of the potentially unworthy heir or someone who shares succession rights with the potentially unworthy heir. If the person who has the right to bring the issue of a potentially unworthy heir before the court is a minor, the court may appoint an attorney to investigate the matter and pursue court action on behalf of the child.
Any legal action seeking to declare an heir unworthy must be brought within five years of the date the will was probated if your loved one died with a will. Otherwise, legal action must be brought place within five years of the date of death if your loved one died without a will.
What Happens After an Heir Is Declared Unworthy
There are significant legal consequences that occur after an heir is deemed unworthy. An unworthy heir:
- Is deprived of his right to succession.
- Must return any property of the decedent and any profit that he has received from that property. Additionally, he must account for any loss to the property due to his impediments or failure to preserve the property as a prudent administrator.
- Must account for the value of any property of the decedent’s that is no longer in his possession and for any profit or loss from that property.
- Not serve as an executor, trustee, attorney, administrator, or other fiduciary with regard to the estate.
Additionally, there could be legal consequences if the unworthy heir sold or gifted any of the decedent’s property to someone else.
Make Sure Your Rights Are Protected
Whether you are at risk of being declared an unworthy heir or you think there is an heir who should be deemed unworthy, you need legal help. An experienced Louisiana succession lawyer can advise you of your rights, so you can make an informed decision about what actions to take next.
Every year, Scott | Vicknair Law helps hundreds of families throughout Louisiana with succession issues. We know how to identify potential problems and handle complicated successions. Let us help you through this difficult time. Please contact us at your earliest convenience to learn more. We can be reached by phone or our online contact form.