Laws Governing Estate Inheritance for Children in Louisiana

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Laws Governing Estate Inheritance for Children in Louisiana

By Larissa Bodniowycz, J.D.

Louisiana is a unique state. Its colorful culture is most notable in language, music, and cuisine. But it's also got some unique laws, including those that govern estate inheritance for children. The following information reflects some of the key aspects of those specific laws.

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Parent Dies with No Will

In many states, if a person dies without a will (called dying “intestate"), all or the majority of their estate by default goes to their surviving spouse. In Louisiana, when a person dies intestate, or by default, their children inherit all or the majority of the estate.

How the children receive the property depends on whether the property is separate property or the decedent's share of community property. Separate property is property a person owns in its entirety, separate from their spouse. Community property is property owned jointly between a person and their spouse. The law is tricky and property can be community property even if it's only owned in one spouse's name.

In Louisiana, when a person dies intestate, their separate property is divided equally among their children. What happens to community property when a person dies intestate is trickier. The decedent's surviving spouse receives a life estate in the property. This means the surviving spouse owns the property as long as the surviving spouse is alive but has no right to determine what happens to the property at their death. Once the surviving spouse dies, the property is transferred to the decedent's children in equal shares.

Parent Dies with Will

Typically, when a person prepares a will, they have full authority to determine who receives their property after their death and can disinherit anyone they want. This is not the case in Louisiana.

In Louisiana, a parent cannot disinherit a child that is under 24 years old, unless the parent has just cause, in other words a very good reason. The law, not the parent, determines what is just cause. Louisiana law, Civ. Code §1621, lists the eight situations where just cause exists. The situations are serious. For example, just cause exists if a child hit a parent, raised their hand to hit a parent, or attempted to murder their parent. Verbally threatening a parent is not enough.

In addition, for an attempted disinheritance to be valid, the just cause must have occurred before the will was drafted and the will must state the intent to disinherit and identify the child or children to be disinherited by name.

If a parent improperly attempts to disinherit a child, the child is considered a forced heir, and entitled to inherit a percentage of the deceased parent's estate during the probate process.The percentage is set by Louisiana law, Civ. Code §1495, and depends on how many forced heirs the parent leaves. If there is only once forced heir, they receive 25 percent of the estate. If there are two or more forced heirs, they split 50 percent of the estate.

Taxes

There is no Louisiana estate or inheritance tax. However, qualifying estates will still be subject to federal estate taxes.

Due to the unique nature of Louisiana's inheritance laws, it's important to use services and attorneys with experience in Louisiana law when preparing estate planning documents such as wills and trusts and when going through the probate process after a death.

This portion of the site is for informational purposes only. The content is not legal advice. The statements and opinions are the expression of author, not LegalZoom, and have not been evaluated by LegalZoom for accuracy, completeness, or changes in the law.

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