Louisiana is different from the rest of the country in many ways – some great, some not so great. When it comes to Louisiana succession law, depending on your take on it, it may fall into the “not so great” category. Let’s use the example of “Sally”. Sally was married – had been for a long time before she passed away. While she was living, she assumed that if she passed away without a will (also known as “intestate”) then naturally, everything she had would immediately go to her husband. They lived for years together amassing furniture, savings, a house, and the other odds and ends that come with daily living. It just made sense that her husband would get everything, right? Not necessarily. While half of the community property that they had amassed while married does go to her spouse (because that is his half of their community property), Sally’s portion of the community property would not go to her husband! Since they had two children, her portion of their community property – including her half of their community home – is split by her children (La. C.C. Art. 880). While Louisiana law allows a “usufruct” in favor of the surviving spouse (La. C.C. Art. 890), allowing him to live in the house for a time, the actual ownership of her half of the house belongs to the children.
Let’s take this example further: suppose Sally bought a house before she was married, making it her separate property. This house would go to her surviving spouse, right? Nope. It would be split by her two children. (La. C.C. Art. 888). Even if she didn’t have children, it still wouldn’t go to her surviving spouse if her parents and/or siblings (or even nieces and nephews) were still alive (La. C.C. Art. 891).
It seems strange that when a couple builds a life together, including buying real estate, saving for the future, and amassing all of those treasures which are important to them, that if one of them dies intestate, under Louisiana law, the surviving spouse does not inherit those items. Don’t just assume that your spouse, or the ones you love, will be taken care of should you pass away. Ensure it! A will can ensure that the people who you want to inherit your property actually “will”.