The following guide includes an overview for the rules of "intestate succession" in Louisiana. This means that, when someone dies without a will, their estate is passed on to their heirs according to Louisiana law.
Spouse and children
If the decedent had children, his children will be entitled to his property. However, if a deceased person had no children, then his spouse will be entitled to his share of the community property. If the decedent had a spouse and children at the time of his death, then the surviving spouse will have a "usufruct" of the decedent's share of the community property.
Because Louisiana is a community property state, everything that a married couple acquires during their marriage together is considered part of the "community of acquets and gains" between them. For example, if the couple bought a house after they married, half of the house is considered to be the property of the wife and the other half the property of the husband. Thus, when the husband dies, the wife still has ownership of her half of the house and would have a "usufruct" over the husband's half of the house. Someone who has a "usufruct" over property has the ability to use the property so long as the usufruct exists. Property that was acquired before the couple was married, or property which was inherited, is considered the spouse's "separate property."
No children, grandchildren, or other descendents
If the deceased person leaves no descendents but is survived by a father and/or mother and by a brother and/or sister, or descendants of the brothers/sisters, then the brothers and sisters (or their descendents) succeed to the separate property of the deceased subject to a usufruct in favor of the surviving parent or parents. If both parents survive the deceased, the usufruct shall be joint and successive. This means that if someone dies without having been married and never having had any children, but his brother and his parents are still living at the time of his death, then his parents would have a "usufruct" over his property and his brother would own the property. Even though the brother may inherit the ownership of the property, it would be the parents who have the right to use the house.
No living children or parents
If the deceased person did not leave any surviving descendents (i.e. children) nor surviving parents, then his brothers/sisters (or their children) would succeed to his separate property in full ownership. If the decedent left no descendents, no brothers or sisters, no nieces or nephews, then his parents succeed to his separate property. This means that the parents receive full ownership of all of the decedent's property.
No children, parents, or siblings
If the decedent left no children, parents, siblings, or children of siblings, then his spouse would succeed to his separate property. For example, the wife of Jack, so long as she was not separated from Jack at the time of his death, would receive Jack's separate property.
No family relations or spouse
In the absence of any family relations or a spouse, the estate of the deceased belongs to the state.
Additional resources provided by the author
See Louisiana Civil Code Articles 880 through 902, which can be found through the website of Louisiana State University Law School.
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