Every state is different in the way it manages Succession Law and the subsequent transfer of property to heirs after a person’s death. A Succession is the process of settling a deceased person’s estate by managing their assets and ensuring all debts are paid. If you are not sure where to begin, we hope this Succession information will offer you some guidance as you navigate Louisiana inheritance laws. This blog will address the importance of a Will and general information regarding the distribution of assets after your death.
What is a Will?
Your Will is your custom-tailored legal document that dictates the distribution of property and assets after your death. In our opinion, your will is a vessel to show your family how much you care. It is a straightforward way of dictating to whom your assets will be given and how much they will receive in accordance with Louisiana law.
What is Community Property vs. Separate Property?
Community Property and Separate Property are determined by whether an individual is married. For unmarried persons, all property is technically “separate” property. For an individual who is married, community property is defined by everything (income, property, debts) a couple accrues during the course of their marriage. There are some assets that are not categorized as “communal,” such as an inheritance.
Louisiana is especially unique in the way it treats surviving spouses because it is one of only eight “Community Property” states. The other states are Arizona, California, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. Wisconsin is not technically a “Community Property” state, but it is a marital property state, so it abides by similar legal guidelines.
What Happens to Assets When Someone Dies Without a Will?
In Louisiana, if an individual dies without a valid Last Will and Testament, his or her estate will be handled by intestate succession. Their assets will subsequently be distributed under Louisiana Intestate Law. This variety of Succession Law is not flexible and does not leave room for individual circumstances. In most cases, the deceased person’s estate will be distributed to their relatives, starting with their children and spouse.
The following outlines the order in which those associated with the deceased inherit their assets depending on whether the property is “community” or “separate” property.
- Children or Descendants
- Surviving Spouse
- If there are no children and no surviving spouse, the estate is then categorized as “Separate Property”
- Children or Descendants
- Nearest Relative
- State of Louisiana
Can Someone with a Will Alter the Order of Succession?
Absolutely! A will enables you to specify exactly who you would like to inherit your assets upon your death. Persons with spouses typically execute wills that dictate the survivor will inherit their estate first. For those with children, an attorney can help enact a plan to take care of your spouse as well as descendants. Those developing a Will typically use a usufruct as a planning technique to ensure the surviving spouse can have maximum use of their assets while leaving a portion to an heir.
What is a Usufruct?
A Usufruct documents the right that one person has over the property of another person. In this instance, the spouse. Usufructs are similar to Life Estates (found in Common Law jurisdiction) with the key difference that a usufruct can be designed to last either a specific period of time or a lifetime. The property that falls under a usufruct can either be personal property or real estate.
If you are a surviving spouse and you have inherited property under a usufruct, it is advisable to educate yourself as to the lifespan of the usufruct. Once a usufruct expires, the property is designated to the “Naked Owners” of the assets. This is a useful tool for couples with children. For example, the deceased spouse can leave property to Recipient A that will pass onto Recipient B upon Recipient A’s death. Recipient A has a right over the property, but Recipient B is the “Naked Owner” and the ultimate recipient of the property.
The McCloskey Will and Succession Package
To make getting all your Succession materials in order easy, The Law Office of Edward J. McCloskey is now offering Individual and Couples Succession packages. This package includes everything you need to give you peace of mind while planning the distribution of your assets.
- Durable Power of Attorney: Financial
- Durable Power of Attorney: Healthcare
- Living Will Declaration
- HIPAA Release
- Advance Directive for Cremation
- Individual: $700
- Couple: $1,300
Contact the Law Office of Edward J. McCloskey
The first step towards a comprehensive understanding of Louisiana Succession Law is by having an open conversation with your attorney. It is not easy to think about what is going to happen when we leave this earth, but we do have the ability to do everything in our power to bring peace of mind to our loved ones. If you are ready to have a conversation about your Will and Succession, contact the Law Office of Edward J. McCloskey and ask about our Succession package. 504-267-3122