The issue of estate planning can be a touchy subject to many. Some in Baton Rouge may prefer to not even deal with it, preferring instead to allow their heirs to figure out amongst themselves how to divide up their assets once they are gone. This line of thinking no doubt contributes to the fact that only about 40 percent of American adults (as reported by the American Association of Retired Persons) actually have a will.
The trouble is that the state does not allow one’s family to determine the distribution of their estate if they fail to stipulate it in a will. Instead, state law designates such estates as “intestate,” and state guidelines dictate how the assets are to be distributed.
According to the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Elderly Affairs, laws are in place stipulatin how one’s community and separate property are to be distributed if they die without a will. For community property, it is given to the decedent’s surviving descendants, with a usufruct (permission to enjoy the use of property) to their surviving spouse. If there are no descendants, then one’s community property goes to their surviving spouse. If their spouse preceded them in death, then their community property is determined to be separate property.
The separate property of one who dies intestate in Louisiana is distributed in the following order:
- Siblings (or their descendants)
- Surviving spouse
- Next of kin
If none of the aforementioned parties survive the decedent, then their intestate estate goes to the state. One will notice that no allowances are made to anyone not related to a decedent by blood or marriage. Thus, if one wants non-relatives or organizations to benefit from their estates, they must detail that in a will.