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What happens to your property if you die without a will?

If you pass away in Louisiana without a will or other estate planning document in place, you may want to know what will become of your assets, property and debt. The answer depends on whether your property is community property or separate property, and what the relationship the survivors are to you.

The Governor's Office of General Affairs provides a handy chart that details precisely what will become of your separate and community property if you were to pass away without a will. It also outlines the differences between community and separate property.

Community property is property that you or your spouse acquired during your marriage unless it otherwise meets the definition of separate property. A prenuptial agreement may also determine property to be separate even if you acquired it during your union. Separate property, on the other hand, is property that you or your spouse owned before you tied the knot; that you or your spouse inherited during the marriage; or that someone gave to either you or your spouse during your union. 

If the property in question is community property, it would pass to your children. If you do not have surviving children, the property would pass to their descendants. If you have a surviving spouse, he or she may enjoy the right to use the property so long as he or she does not destroy it or waste it. If you do not have children, then your property automatically goes to your spouse. If you do not have a surviving spouse, the state would treat the entirety of your estate as separate property.

When distributing your separate property, the administrator would abide by Louisiana's intestate succession laws. Such laws dictate that your children (and their descendants) have first rights to the property. If you have no children, your property would then pass to your brothers and sisters (and their descendants). Your parents would be next in line, followed by your spouse, grandparents and other ascendants. If you have no surviving ascendants, your property would go to the nearest surviving family member. If you have no surviving family members, the state of Louisiana would assume ownership of your property. 

The information in this post is for purely educational purposes. It should not be construed as legal advice.




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Dale M. Maas, Attorney at Law
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