What happens to your property if you die without a Last Will? Who will your assets go to?

If you die without a Last Will and Testament, your assets will pass on to your relatives according to Louisiana’s “intestacy” law. What does that mean? “Intestacy” law is the law that governs who will inherit your property.

Louisiana law provides a specific order for who will inherit your estate when you die without a Last Will. The specific order depends on

  1. Whether you have “separate” property or “community” property; and
  2. Whether you have a surviving spouse, children, and/or grandchildren.

Community Property

At the most basic level, “community” property is property you acquired during your marriage. Thus, in order to have “community” property, you must be married at your death. A widower, who has not remarried, will only have separate property.

The specific order of the class of relatives that your community property will devolve to is as follows:

  1. Your surviving spouse; and/or
  2. Your children or grandchildren.

If you have no children or grandchildren, then your surviving spouse will inherit all of your community property.

If you have children and grandchildren, then your children and grandchildren will inherit your community property and your surviving spouse will inherit a “usufruct” (right to use and enjoy) over your community property until either remarriage or death.

Separate Property

Separate property, at the most basic level, is any property you owned before you were married or any property you inherited from a family member.

The specific order of the class of relatives that your separate property will devolve to is as follows:

  1. Your children and grandchildren;
  2. Your parents;
  3. Your brothers and sisters, or your nieces and nephews;
  4. Your surviving spouse;
  5. Your “other ascendants;” and
  6. Your “other collaterals.”

If you have children, grandchildren, parents, brothers or sisters, or nieces and nephews, then, without a Will, your surviving spouse is not entitled to any of your separate property.

If you have both brothers or sisters and parents, then your brothers and sisters will inherit your separate property and your parents will inherit a “usufruct” over your separate property. If you have half-siblings and full-blooded siblings, your property will be split between your maternal and paternal lines. Each sibling will only inherit in the maternal or paternal line that the sibling belongs to.

Your “other ascendants” are your grandparents and great-grandparents. However, your grandparents will inherit property over your great-grandparents.

Your “other collaterals” are your cousins. Your cousins that are closest to you in degree inherit over the more remote cousins. Thus, your first cousins will inherit your separate property over your second cousins.

A class of people will inherit your separate property in equal portions. For example, if you have three siblings who are inheriting your separate property, each of your three siblings will inherit one-third (1/3) of your separate property. But you haven’t talked to your oldest sister in years and don’t want her to inherit anything? The only way to avoid your estate going to relatives you don’t like is to have a Last Will and Testament.

Do seek legal representation in preparing your Last Will and Testament, and come see us at Hoyt & Stanford, L.L.C.

Jena is an Attorney & Counselor at Law whose primary areas of practice are Tax Law and Estate Planning and is located in Lafayette, LA