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Succession Basics

A succession is the legal proceeding to transfer assets from someone who has passed away to their heirs.

Louisiana has two possible legal procedures that can be invoked to handle your estate after you pass away. One is called an “intestate succession” and the other is “testate succession.” The difference between the two is whether or not a will is involved.

An intestate succession is the procedure followed when there is not a will. By process of elimination, you’ve probably already figured out that a testate succession is followed when there is a will. When you don’t have a plan at all, you don’t have even a will, so the rules of intestate successions will determine what happens to your estate after you pass away.

Inheritance of Community Property

In an intestate succession, the community 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 share is inherited by the descendants of the couple. If there are no descendants, then the surviving spouse gets that share.

If the descendants inherit the half of the community property, it is, as mentioned above, subject to the usufruct of the surviving spouse. This usufruct terminates when the surviving spouse dies or remarries. The usufruct then rejoins with the naked ownership making the descendants the full owners of the property.

Inheritance of Separate Property

In an intestate succession, the separate property of the deceased goes entirely to the descendants. 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.

Forced Heirship

Louisiana is the only state remaining that has the concept in the law of forced heirship, and this is one of the biggest reasons why documents from other states don’t really work too well here. It is also one of the biggest reasons why you need an appropriate Estate Plan.

Forced heirship means that there may be heirs of yours that you can not write out of your will. Your special needs child will be a forced heir. They have to receive a certain portion of your estate when you pass away. You can’t try to protect their benefits by leaving them out of your will.

Get Help with a Succession

You do not need to schedule an appointment to our office. We can handle everything by phone, mail, and email.

Our fees for all matters are flat fees rather than hourly rates. Call to speak to an attorney who will discuss your options and quote a fee based on your specific needs: (985) 853-8557.

More Information


Intestate Succession – What Happens Without a Will