Intestate Succession for Separate Property Heirs in Louisiana

July 9, 2024

When a loved one dies without a will in Louisiana, their property will be subject to a process known as intestate succession. Here’s a guide to help you understand how intestate succession affects the distribution of separate property, as well as your rights as an heir.

Dying with a Will in Louisiana

For a will to be valid in Louisiana, it must be signed by the decedent, two witnesses, and a notary. This document should name an executor and outline the heirs. Estates valued over $125,000 generally need to go through probate, but smaller estates can be handled with a small estate affidavit, bypassing the need for probate.

Dying Without a Will in Louisiana

When a person dies without a will, their estate is subject to Louisiana’s intestate succession laws. These laws dictate how separate and community property is distributed. Louisiana allows for independent property administration, where heirs can manage the inheritance without court involvement, provided all parties agree.

Children and Their Descendants

Children are the primary heirs to a decedent’s separate property in Louisiana. This includes children born during a marriage, adopted children, children placed for adoption, illegitimate children who were formally acknowledged, and grandchildren if their parent (the decedent’s child) predeceased the decedent. If no descendants exist, the property passes to the decedent’s parents and siblings.

Siblings, Their Descendants, and Parents

If there are no surviving children, inheritance passes to siblings and parents. Siblings inherit first, with parents holding a usufruct right (the right to use the property during their lifetime). Multiple siblings inherit equal shares, and nieces and nephews inherit their parent's share if the sibling predeceased the decedent. If no siblings survive, parents inherit the property.


Without children, parents, siblings, or their descendants, the surviving spouse inherits all separate property, provided the decedent was married at the time of death.

Ascendants, Such as Grandparents

In the absence of descendants, parents, siblings, or a surviving spouse, property passes to ascendants, typically grandparents, who inherit equal shares if they are alive.

Other Relatives

If no close relatives exist, the closest living relative or relatives (no matter how distant) will inherit the property. 

Forced Heirship in Louisiana

Louisiana is unique in enforcing forced heirship, which requires a portion of the estate to be left to the decedent’s children, even if the will specifies otherwise.

Inheritance for Unmarried Individuals Without Children

If an unmarried individual without children passes away, their property is distributed to parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, grandparents, and then to the nearest relatives in that order. If no relatives can be found, the estate may be claimed by the state.

Tax Obligations

Louisiana doesn’t impose an inheritance or estate tax, but heirs may still need to file final individual federal and state income tax returns, a federal estate/trust income tax return, and a federal estate tax return for estates exceeding $13.61 million in 2022. Estates need an employer identification number (EIN) from the IRS.

Non-Probate Assets

Some assets bypass the probate process and go directly to designated beneficiaries. These include annuities, IRAs, joint tenancy property, life insurance policies, living trusts, payable-on-death accounts, and 401(k)s.

Need Legal Assistance?

Intestate succession can be a legally and emotionally complex process, especially during a time of mourning. Contact our experienced lawyers at Anderson Traylor Edwards for assistance. We’re here to help protect your rights and guide you through the succession process with confidence and compassion.

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