Do you want to leave anything to your spouse? Well, if you have kids or grandkids but you fail to execute a will, your spouse will own none of your property.
If you die without a will in Louisiana, the state rules are not very kind to your spouse. If a spouse dies leaving behind one or more children, then ownership of all of that spouse’s property is left to his or her children and not to the surviving spouse! If a spouse dies leaving behind no children or grandchildren, even then not all of his or her property is left to the surviving spouse – some of it is left to his or her parents and siblings instead!
Let’s take an example. You are the wife. Your husband bought his car before you were married. After your marriage, you and your husband bought a house. This means the car is his separate property and the house is community property (the house belongs half to you and half to your husband). Your husband dies suddenly and he does not have a will. What happens? If your husband did not have any children, you get the entire house. However, you do not get the car – it goes to his parents and siblings! Assuming your husband would rather leave his car to you, a will can easily fix this.
Now, if your husband left behind a child – this is where it gets more interesting. You also do not get the car – the child inherits it. As for the house, you still own half of it outright – you always own half of all community property. However, the other half that belonged to your husband passes to the child, not to you! You do, however, retain certain rights over the child’s half of the house. You can still live there, or you can lease it and keep the rent money. But, you cannot sell the house without your child’s permission. You can’t even take out a mortgage on the house without that child’s permission, even if it is needed to pay for their college tuition! Also, you may be required to post a bond in order to continue to live in the house. That means depositing some amount of your cash with the court until the house is sold. Further, if you ever remarry or live with someone as if you were married, all your rights to the child’s half of the house disappear forever. Your child could then force the house to be sold – and he or she keeps one half of the sales proceeds! And it doesn’t stop there – this situation could also be bad news for the child. As the owner of the other half of the house, the child would also have liabilities associated with owning half the house – including lawsuits, major repairs and taxes.
Does this sound good? Maybe for you it does, or at least not bad enough to care. But, if you do care, you should know that creating a will can alleviate most or all of these issues. If you would prefer to leave all or most of your property to your spouse, which many people do, then a will can go to great lengths to accomplish that in Louisiana. In your will, you can leave all your property – both community and separate – to your spouse. In the example above, that would mean that the wife inherits the car and the house. The only impediment to leaving everything to your spouse are the forced heir laws in Louisiana, which generally block you from leaving everything you own outright to your spouse if you die leaving behind a child that is under 24 years old or disabled at any age. But, even so, your will correctly drafted can minimize or even eliminate the impact of forced heirship, including leaving your spouse extremely broad management power over the forced portion, granting your spouse the ability to sell and mortgage the property, and relieving your spouse of bond requirements. The technicalities here are lengthy and this discussion only addresses the basics – you should speak to an attorney for more information on this topic.
In conclusion, if you want your spouse to inherit and benefit as much as possible from your estate, then in Louisiana you need to execute a will.
* The content of this page is for informational purposes only. It does not serve as legal advice and should not be taken as such. There is nothing published on this website that is intended to create an attorney-client relationship. If you have a legal issue, you should consult with a licensed attorney directly.