Louisiana Inheritance Law
Louisiana’s inheritance laws are designed to ensure that the state does not impose estate taxes or inherit your property. If your spouse, children, siblings, parents, or grandchildren do not survive you, your property could go to your grandnieces, grandnephews, or even distant cousins.
What Is An Heir?
In Louisiana, the term "heir" refers to a person who is entitled to inherit the assets and property of a deceased individual. The Louisiana Civil Code defines the rules of succession and outlines who qualifies as an heir in the state.
In general, the following individuals are considered heirs in Louisiana:
- Descendants: Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and so on, are considered direct descendants and are typically the first in line to inherit from a deceased person.
- Ascendants: Parents, grandparents, and other direct ancestors can be heirs in certain situations, particularly when there are no living descendants.
- Collateral Relatives: Siblings, nieces, nephews, and other relatives who are not direct descendants or ascendants may be heirs if there are no living descendants or ascendants.
- Surviving Spouse: A surviving spouse is entitled to a share of the deceased spouse's estate as an heir, depending on the presence of other heirs.
It's important to note that Louisiana has unique inheritance laws known as "forced heirship" rules. These rules protect the rights of certain close relatives, particularly children, by guaranteeing them a minimum share of the estate, known as the "legitime." The remaining portion of the estate, called the "disposable portion," can be freely distributed according to the deceased person's wishes.
Who Is Considered An Heir To An Estate?
Louisiana Inheritance Guidelines:
- Single w/ no children - Your parents will inherit your property
- Married w/ no children or siblings - Your spouse will inherit property
- Married w/ children - All parties will share property following usufruct rule, all separate property to children
- Married w/ surviving parents - Marital community property to the spouse, all separate property to parents
- Married w/ children, but no parents - Marital community property to the spouse, all separate property to children
- Children, but no surviving spouse - Entire estate to children
Property Allocation in Louisiana
If you do not create a last will and testament in Louisiana your estate will be subject to the Louisiana default rules for allocation of your property. Under such circumstances, your estate will be distributed according to Louisiana intestate laws. Unfortunately, those default rules may not be a reflection of your wishes for your loved ones and may even be contrary to the way you want your estate distributed.
Assets that are generally unaffected by Louisiana’s intestate succession laws include:
- Some retirement accounts, such as funds in a 401(k) or IRA accounts that name a beneficiary
- Life insurance proceeds, if there is a named beneficiary
- Property that is properly transferred to a revocable living trust
These types of assets will go directly to the named beneficiary. Other property that is owned by you must be listed in your last will and testament to override Louisiana intestate laws. This includes one-half of all community property or property acquired by you and your spouse during your marriage and separate property that belongs only to you.
Understanding the Intestate Succession Laws in Louisiana
Who inherits from you under Louisiana intestate law depends on which family members survive you in death. Those entitled to inherit from you are called intestate heirs and there is a hierarchy. Consequently, if you have a loved one who is not a family member, including them in a last will and testament is imperative in order for them to inherit from you.
Otherwise, if you have a surviving spouse, he or she will inherit one-half of your community assets as their separate property, and the other one-half they will have the right to use until they remarry or pass away. This is also known as usufruct. If you have children, they will inherit the naked ownership right of one-half of the community property and all of your separate property outright. Upon the surviving spouse’s remarriage or passing, your children will inherit full ownership of one-half of the community property. Therefore, if you wish for your spouse to be the only owner of the family home when you pass away, you must state that wish in a last will and testament.
If you are not survived at death by a spouse, children, or siblings, then your surviving parents will inherit everything. If you have parents and a spouse that survive you, your spouse will inherit all of your community property and your parents will inherit your separate property.
Intestate Shares of Property for Surviving Children
On the other hand, if you are only survived by your children, then they are your intestate heirs and will receive an intestate share of your property. The amount they receive is based on the number of children they have and their biological relationship with you. If you have a child who is under the age of twenty-four (24) at the time of your passing or meets other requirements, they may be entitled to a larger portion of your estate. Your surviving stepchildren or foster children do not automatically become your intestate heirs. You must legally adopt a child in order for them to be entitled to a portion of your estate. Children born outside of marriage may receive a portion of your estate if you have acknowledged your paternity or if paternity is proven in court. Interestingly, in Louisiana, if you placed a child up for adoption, he or she could still be entitled to a share of your estate even if another family legally adopts that child.
Schedule a Consultation with a Knowledgeable Estate Planning Lawyer Today!
It is important that you make decisions regarding the distribution of your assets at death. This is particularly true if you wish for a non-family member to inherit from you, you have a blended family, or you simply wish to skip a generation in gifting your estate. At the Law Office of Wendra J. Moran, our team is committed to helping families plan appropriately for the future.
Call (225) 228-4445 today to schedule a consultation at our Baton Rouge office!