Many Louisiana residents do not have estate plans in place. Those who die without a will are said to have died intestate. Who will inherit the property of these estates will be determined by intestate succession laws. Probate is typically necessary to ensure these laws are followed.
Before deciding who is to inherit what, it is necessary to identify if property is community or separate. Community property is that which ownership has been split 50/50 with a spouse. Separate property is anything the deceased owned before getting married or is gifted or inherited during the marriage. For those who are single, all property is considered separate.
If one is married upon his or her death, community property passes to the surviving spouse. Separate property, however, will first go to children, if any, second to the deceased's parents or siblings, if living, and finally, to the spouse. If one is single when he or she passes, his or her parents, if living, are first in line to inherit the estate. Second would be siblings, if any, then nieces and nephews, if any, and finally, grandparents, if they are still alive. If none of the above exist, the estate would go to the nearest relative.
Louisiana residents who wish to name beneficiaries and what they are to receive may want to consider putting together estate plans. Those who are already dealing with an intestate estate may find intestate succession laws confusing. With the assistance of counsel, any questions about the order of succession that are brought up during probate can be addressed, and property can be passed on to the appropriate heirs.