If there is a will, you simply carry out the wishes of the will. But if the will is invalid, if it does not dispose of the entire estate, or if there is no will, then the property will be inherited according to Louisiana law. First, we need to determine whether the property is separate or community property. Louisiana is a “community property” state. In most cases, property acquired during a marriage is considered community property and co-owned equally between spouses. A house bought during the marriage is likely to be community property, whereas a house bought before the marriage will be separate. When a married spouse dies, the surviving spouse will keep their half of the property and be granted use of the other spouse’s half. That use lasts until death or remarriage, and then the children inherit everything. Status as an heir can be complicated, so it is important to have a lawyer advise you on the breakdown of an estate.
Accessing checking accounts and selling or updating title to real estate that is still listed in the name of a deceased person requires the probate process, also called a “succession” in Louisiana. If there is a last will and testament, it will typically name an individual to be the executor of the estate. Property will be frozen until that executor has been formally appointed by the court and empowered to access the property. Without a will, the heirs can all agree to appoint someone to be in charge of the estate, and that person will then need to be appointed through the court system in order to access property. It is also possible in certain circumstances to resolve an estate without a person being appointed and immediately place all heirs in possession of estate property. What option is best for you and your family will depend on your particular situation and we would be glad to explain your options to you.
It is a sad truth that hurricanes have caused terrible damage to homes in Louisiana and will continue to do so. Fortunately, people are often living in houses that are insured and the claims can repair the damage, but the occupants are not on title to the home. Very often the occupants are living in a home that is actually still titled in their parents or even grandparents names. These heirs need to complete the probate process for their deceased family members and have themselves put in possession of the property in order to collect the insurance funds.