A properly drafted revocable trust or a testament (will) is the cornerstone of an effective estate plan. Unfortunately, it is estimated that 70 percent of Americans die without an estate plan. A person who dies with a valid will dies testate, and a person who dies without a valid will dies intestate. If you die without a trust or a will, the State of Louisiana’s intestacy laws determine who will inherit your estate. The problem with the intestacy laws is that you lose all control with regard to who inherits your estate and how your assets will be inherited (e. g. outright or in a trust). For example you may want to distribute your estate to your children in unequal portions. Or, you may wish to leave a portion of your estate to pay for your grandchildren’s education. Another option would be to provide more flexibility and control to your surviving spouse over community property and separate property. The options available to you are practically unlimited, but you must have a plan. In addition, your estate may be subjected to unnecessary expenses, delays and taxes that can be avoided with proper planning.
If you die without a proper estate plan, the Louisiana intestacy laws provide the following rules for the distribution of your estate:
Intestate Heirs of Community Property
- Your descendants (your children or their descendants) inherit your half of the community property, subject to the usufruct of your surviving spouse. The usufruct will terminate upon the remarriage of your surviving spouse. The usufruct allows the surviving spouse to use the assets and receive income from the assets for the duration of the usufruct.
- If you do not have descendants, your surviving spouse inherits your half of the community property.
Intestate Heirs of Separate Property
- Your descendants inherit your separate property in full ownership (no usufruct to your surviving spouse).
- If you do not have descendants, your brothers and sisters (or their descendants) inherit your separate property, subject to a usufruct in favor of your surviving parents. If your parents predecease you, your brothers and sisters (or their descendants) inherit your separate property in full ownership. If your siblings predecease you (leaving no descendants), your parents inherit your separate property in full ownership.
- If none of the above survives you, your surviving spouse, not judicially separated, inherits your separate property in full ownership.
- If you die without descendants, siblings or their descendants, or a spouse not judicially separated and your parents are deceased, your other ascendants (e.g. grandparents) inherit your separate property.
- If none of the above survives, your closest collateral relation inherits your estate.
If you wish to override the default Louisiana intestacy provisions outlined above, you must have an estate plan that defines your wishes. Without an estate plan you lose all control over the distribution of your estate.
If you have questions about protecting your loved ones with an up-to-date estate plan, contact John Sirois at 985-580-2520 or by email at .
For more information about wills, trusts, and estate planning, visit John’s website at www.houmaestateplanningattorney.com.