What happens if you die without a Will?

An Intestate Succession – “A Succession Without a Will”

When one passes away without a Will, their estate passes along to their survivors through a process call “intestate succession.” That is, it is a succession without a “testament,” which is the technical term for a Will. The first step is to determine what things of the decedant were “community property” with a surviving spouse and what was separate property.

Categorizing the Property

Broadly speaking, community property is anything that was acquired during the marriage and separate property is what was acquired before the marriage. Separate property also includes inheritances and gifts specifically to that person.

Community Property when there is no Will

In dealing with the community property, that property is divided in half. One half belongs to the surviving spouse as that spouse’s share of the community. The other half is the deceased’s share of the community. That half that was the decedent’s is inherited by the children (or other decendants) of the couple. If there are no descendants, then the surviving spouse gets that share.

The half of the community property that the descendants get in this way is subject to the usufruct of the surviving spouse. This means that the surviving spouse has a life-long right to use that half of the property. This right terminates when the surviving spouse dies or remarries. When that happens, the usufruct rejoins with the “naked ownership” of the descendants making the descendants the full owners of the property.

Separate Property when there is no Will

The separate property of the deceased goes entirely to the descendants of the deceased. If the deceased did not have children, then it would go to siblings or their descendants, with a usufruct in favor of a parent or parents if they are surviving. If there are no siblings, but there is a parent or both parents surviving, then the parents inherit in full.

If there are no descendants, no siblings, no descendants of siblings, and no parents, but there is a spouse, then the spouse gets the separate property. If there is no spouse, then we start searching the family tree up the line of ascendants, and out to other “collaterals,” which would mean cousins, aunts and uncles, and so on. If nobody else can be found, the State of Louisiana receives the estate.