The rights of children to inherit their parents' estates are governed by Louisiana's Civil Code. The state's Civil Code is unique in many way. For example, Louisiana is the only state that prohibits parents from disinheriting children under 24 years of age. In this sense, a child has a greater right to inherit his parents' property in Louisiana than in other states.
Separate Property Vs. Community Property
Louisiana is one of nine community property states. This means spouses share a 50/50 interest in community property, which is typically property acquired while a couple is married. Louisiana also recognizes another form of property, known as separate property, which is property a spouse owned before marriage, as well as gifts or inheritances one spouse received during marriage. A parent may make a will leaving all of his community property to his children.
In Louisiana, when a married parent dies intestate -- without a will -- his surviving spouse receives a usufruct in his share of the community property. This means that a surviving spouse has the right to use or profit from her deceased spouse's share of community property throughout her lifetime. However, when the surviving spouse dies or remarries, the usufruct terminates and passes to surviving children who then own the property outright.
Intestate Inheritance Shares
If a parent doesn't leave a will, children receive inheritance based on Louisiana's laws of intestate succession. According to these laws, children automatically receive all of their parent's property if their parent is unmarried at the time of death. Children are immediately entitled to all of their parent's separate property if the parent has a surviving spouse but no will -- provided the child is at least 18 years old. Moreover, children are the "naked owners" of their deceased parent's community property during a surviving spouse's usufruct. If a parent died intestate with a surviving spouse and only one child, that child will immediately inherit all of his parent's separate property -- if the child is 18 years old -- upon the parent's death, and all of his parent's community property when the usufruct ends. If there's more than one child over 18 years of age, the children will immediately inherit their parent's separate property upon death and his community property -- when the usufruct ends -- in equal shares. Minor children are entitled to the same inheritance shares; however, they do not receive it until they reach the age of majority.
If a parent tries to disinherit a child under 24 years of age, Louisiana imposes something called forced heirship. This means that if a child under 24 years old is left out of his parent's will, he will receive one-fourth of his parent's community property; if there is more than one forced heir, the portion they inherit is equivalent to one-half of their parent's community property. If a child is over 24 years old, his parent may disinherit him in a will; however, the parent must explicitly give "just cause" -- as listed in Louisiana's Civil Code -- as to why he's disinheriting his child. For example, if a child ever hit his parent, accused his parent of a capital crime or failed to get his parent's consent to marry as a minor, he may be disinherited.