Louisiana Intestate Succession: Who Inherits, and What Do They Inherit?

Jun 2, 2021 by Ciolino & Onstott

Louisiana Intestate Succession: Who Inherits, and What Do They Inherit?
Louisiana intestate succession who inherits
Louisiana intestate succession is the process of transferring property when a person dies without a will. In our last blog post, we discussed the process of opening an intestate succession procedurally. In this post, we are addressing who inherits property when the decedent does not make a specific directive. 

Please remember that the information contained in this post is for information purposes only. It is not an adequate substitute for legal advice. every estate is different. Therefore, the best approach to transferring property from the deceased person to their heirs may vary. If you would like to discuss your specific facts with an attorney who is experienced in handling usufruct matters, please schedule your free consult here

Division of Ownership Under Louisiana Inheritance Law (The Short Version)

To understand inheritance in Louisiana as described below, we must first understand "usufruct in Louisiana" and "naked ownership" under Louisiana law which are divisions of ownership rights. 

In short, Louisiana usufruct rights boils down to the right to "use" and "enjoy" property. The right to "use" a home includes the right, for instance, to live in the home. The right to "enjoy" the same home is the right to profit from it, for instance, if the usufructuary rented the home in exchange for money. 

The final ownership right is the right to "dispose" of the property. The usufruct does not have the right to dispose of immovable property unless it is specifically granted. The disposal right rests with the Naked Owner, so long as disposing of the property does not impinge upon the rights of the Usufruct. 

If this sounds like a messy and confusing division of rights over property, that's because it is! Fortunately, this mess and confusion can be avoided by estate planning

Inheritance in Louisiana: Who Inherits Under Louisiana Inheritance Laws?

Under Louisiana inheritance laws, a married person's property is divided into separate and community property, and who receives property depends on this designation. For more on the separate and community property distinction, click here

The community property is inherited by the decedent's children (if any) in naked ownership under Louisiana law, subject to a usufruct in favor of the surviving spouse. This division of ownership often causes confusion and frustration between family members. This can be avoided through estate planning during a person's lifetime. If there are no children, then the spouse inherits the community portion in full ownership. 

A married person's separate property, on the other hand, is inherited first by their children, if any, then, by their siblings (in naked ownership if the parents are living) subject to a usufruct in favor of the parents (if any). Then the spouse inherits. If there is no spouse, "other descendants" inherit, then "Other collateral relatives" inherit. 

To summarize Louisiana law on inherited property, community property is inherited in the following order:
  1. To the children in naked ownership subject to the usufruct in favor of the spouse, if there are any children. 
  2. To the spouse in full ownership if there are no children. 
Separate property, on the other hand, is inherited in the following order:
  1. To the children in full ownership.
  2. To the siblings of the deceased in naked ownership subject to a usufruct in favor of the deceased's parents if they remain living. If the parents are not living, the children inherit in full ownership. If there are no siblings, then to the parents in full ownership. 
  3. To the surviving spouse. 
  4. To other ascendant relatives (such as grandparents, great-grandparents). 
  5. To other "collateral" relatives, or relatives descended from ascendant relatives (such as aunts, uncles, and cousins). 
Please note that the priority of the heirs means that if there are any members in one rank, those members inherit all of the property (divided equally between them). Therefore, if you have a spouse and children, your parents and siblings will not inherit from your passing. The same is true if you have siblings and parents, your cousins will not inherit from your estate. 

Furthermore, if the deceased has both full and half siblings, the half siblings inherit half of the amount that the full siblings inherit. 

These laws were designed as an effort by the Louisiana State Legislature to move property from a deceased person to their heirs in the order that the deceased person most likely would have wanted it to be transferred in. 

Learn More about Louisiana Inheritance Laws

If you have questions about your rights to a deceased person's estate or if you wish to avoid the convoluted process for your own estate by drafting an estate plan, schedule your free consult with Ciolino & Onstott today

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