A question most people don’t think about is “Just what happens to my stuff when I die?”
The answer varies depending on your individual estate plan or lack thereof. Preparation for your own death is not something people want to think about or discuss. However, proper preparation can make the transition for those you leave behind easier.
I have a will.
First, let’s talk about wills. A properly drafted will allows you to dictate exactly who gets your property. You can leave your property to whomever you desire in whatever portions you desire. This allows YOU to control the flow of your assets after you are deceased. A will also allows you to set up devices for property left to minor children and allows you to dictate who controls the property for those minor children. It is important that your will is in proper form and follow the laws of Louisiana. If provisions in the will or the entire will itself is found to be invalid, your wishes may not be followed.
To keep it as simple as possible, find an attorney that can explain all the little nuances of a will to you and get it done right. People put off drawing wills for two reasons: either they just don’t like to think about death or they think they can’t afford it. You are never too young or too old, nor too rich or too poor to have a will.
I don’t have a will.
You think to yourself, why do I need a will? If you die without a will, the Louisiana laws of intestacy dictate who gets your property.
The laws of intestacy are based on the classification of property as community or separate. Separate property of a spouse is the property that spouse brought into the marriage or inherited themselves during the marriage. Community property is the property acquired by the couple during their marriage. (There are exceptions but this is the general principle)
Community Property without a will:
- Your children (in some instances grandchildren) inherit your community property.
- If you have no children, your spouse inherits your community property.
- Your spouse has a usufruct (right to use) over the property your children inherit, but that use terminates if the spouse remarries.
Separate Property without a will:
If you die without a will, the only way your wife inherits your separate property is if you have no children, grandchildren, parents, brothers/sisters, or nieces/nephews.
For example, if you purchase a house before you and your wife get married and the house is never transferred or donated to your spouse, this would be your separate property. If you suddenly die with no children and your parents are already deceased, your only brother inherits your house. How would your spouse like your brother owning the house? The surviving spouse no longer has a legal right to live there.
Remember that Louisiana inheritance laws are based on the Napoleonic Code and are unique to Louisiana. When you do decide to write a will, be sure that you are using an attorney that is licensed in Louisiana.
Losing a loved one is hard enough. Suddenly having to face a maze of inheritance laws, succession, and probate makes the grieving even harder. Writing a will provides insurance that can help your loved ones cope through a difficult time and assure that YOU decide what happens to your property. Why wait?