Inheritance Laws in Louisiana

By Matthew Derrringer

If you die without a will in Louisiana, you have no control over the distribution of the estate you leave behind. It’s called dying “intestate.” When this happens, state laws dictate the distribution of your estate. In Louisiana, however, the inheritance laws are unusually unique.

A Valid Will

A valid will is the only way around the intestacy laws of Louisiana. While common requirements for executing a valid will, such as signing the document, as well as having competent witnesses do the same, are included in Louisiana law, there are a couple of differences. The person making the will, known as the “testator,” must not only sign at the end of the will, but also on every separate page of the will. Further, a properly worded “attestation clause” must be included, which declares that the will is indeed the full and true intent of the testator. Failure to incorporate any of these unique requirements in Louisiana will lead to a will being declared invalid.

Community Property

Of particular importance to the inheritance laws of Louisiana is the concept of community property. While a spouse can have separate property, such as an inheritance he himself received or property owned prior to a marriage, community property includes most of the property acquired by a couple during marriage. Community property is jointly owned by the spouses, and when one of them dies intestate, half of the community property is considered part of the deceased spouse’s estate. However, Louisiana law also incorporates a term known as “usufruct.” This means that the surviving spouse, although no longer the owner of that half of the community property, will retain the right to use and benefit from that community property until their death or remarriage. At that time the property will transfer to the original owner’s descendants – their children.

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Descendants, Disinheritance and Just Cause

Under Louisiana law, descendants – not the spouse – are the primary beneficiaries of a decedent’s estate. If someone is making a will in Louisiana with a mind to disinherit one of their children, there are certain restrictions. First, a child who is physically or mentally disabled may not be disinherited. Second, any child under age 24 cannot be disinherited without “just cause.” An attempt to do so will make that child a “forced heir,” which is a descendent who must receive a portion of the deceased’s estate, by law at least 25 percent. Louisiana law outlines several instances of just cause, including a child who has struck a parent or attempted to kill the parent, for example.

Intestate Portions

The children of a person who died intestate and left a surviving spouse would receive equal shares of the estate, subject to the surviving spouse’s usufruct rights. The descendants of a decedent without a surviving spouse would take shares of the estate outright. If a decedent had no children, then his surviving spouse would inherit his half of the community property, while his siblings would inherit his separate property in equal shares.

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Laws Governing Estate Inheritance for Children in Louisiana
 

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Tennessee Estate Laws

Tennessee's estate laws govern how a person's property, collectively known as the estate, is to be divided upon his death. Tennessee law sets forth the requirements for a valid will, but if a person doesn't have a will, the law contains intestacy provisions, setting forth the order in which his heirs may inherit. Tennessee law will protect a deceased's spouse if she is disinherited.

Rhode Island Inheritance Laws

If a Rhode Island resident makes a valid will, she gets to choose how her property is divided. Rhode Island law requires residents to be at least 18 years old and capable of understanding the significance of making a will. Moreover, state law requires two witnesses during the signing of a will. If a resident fails to make a will, she dies "intestate." When a Rhode Island resident dies intestate, i.e. without a will, her property is divided among family members according to state law. These laws are referred to as laws of descent and distribution or laws of intestate succession.

Idaho Wills & Community Property

In an Idaho divorce, property is divided based on the community property system, in which each spouse gets half of the marital property. A spouse can leave some of his property by will, but other factors may come into play. For specific questions about Idaho law, seek professional advice.

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