Most people hate to contemplate their own mortality — and that can include drafting their end-of-life and estate planning documents. While it is an individual's right not to write a will or otherwise protect their assets, they should know and understand the consequences of their actions.
Below are the scenarios for the disposition of a decedent's assets when they die intestate in Louisiana, the legal term for dying without a will in place.
Married with no children
If you don't have children, your spouse receives all of your share of community property. But separate property is handled much differently and your spouse must wait until your descendants, parents, brothers and sisters and even their descendants receive their entitled share.
Married with children
If your spouse survives you, they receive usufruct (use) of your share of community property. The usufruct lasts their lifetime or until they remarry.
At that point, your kids will get your portion of the community property. Anything that doesn't go to your surviving spouse will then go to your:
- children or grandchildren
- nieces and nephews
- collateral relatives with the closest kinship to you
No surviving spouse or you were unmarried but with relatives
Any descendants who survive you, e.g., grandchildren, inherit first, then your parents should they still be alive. After that, the order is:
- nieces and nephews
- collateral relatives
No surviving relatives
By default, without a last will and testament, your entire estate will be left to the state of Louisiana.
Why writing a will is so important
Most people hate to think of their treasured possessions winding up on the auction block being sold off to strangers or passed on to those they didn't get on well with in life.
Perhaps you always intended to pass along a ruby ring to the granddaughter who shared your birth month or the hunting rifle to go to the brother with whom you had so many pleasant hunting experiences in your youth. Without a will, however, that may never occur. Worse, your family may be torn asunder due to the bad feelings engendered by the legal disposition of your estate.
Taking the time now to make a legal estate plan can prevent these unfortunate events from unfolding after you pass on.