When You Start a Family

Some of the most tragic cases we get involved with involve families falling apart after the death of a loved one due to an expensive, protracted legal battle over their estate. This is why we encourage our clients who are getting married or starting a family to strongly consider assembling an estate plan, to ensure that their spouse and children are taken care of in the event that anything happens to them.

Louisiana’s intestate succession laws (which apply if you pass away without a will) are very complicated. First, all of your property is categorized. If you are married, all of your property is classified in one of two ways: things that you own together with your spouse, which are called “Community Property;” and things that you own solely by yourself, which are called “Separate Property.”

Under the intestate succession laws, their children receive community property as “naked owners” and the surviving spouse receives the community property as a “usufructuary.” If the decedent does not have children, their half of the community property goes entirely to the surviving spouse, and nothing goes to any other person. Their separate property is handled similarly, except that if the person has no children, the property goes to their siblings as naked owners, and to their parents as usufructuaries. If there are no descendants, siblings, or parents, then the surviving spouse receives the estate in its entirety.

If that last paragraph sounds confusing, that’s because it is!

This confusing division of property can cost your family thousands of dollars in legal fees simply to determine who gets what; and the process often leaves nothing to many people that the deceased would have wanted to give something to. As you might imagine, this confusion can also easily escalate to a full-fledged lawsuit within the succession, causing more stress and expense for the family.

The good news is that almost all of Louisiana’s succession laws are either optional or subject to modification by making a will. That’s why many of our clients choose to address these issues on their own terms by making a will within their estate plans.

If you believe that an estate plan would benefit your loved ones, please contact Ciolino, Pritchett & Onstott at 504-579-9720 today!