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Louisiana estate planning laws are different to those in any other state because Louisiana is the only state in the U.S. whose laws developed out of French Napoleonic Code rather than English common law. It is the only state with forced heirship, and the only state with usufruct and naked ownership. If you die without a will, in Louisiana, your spouse only inherits your property if you have no living descendants, siblings or descendants of siblings, or parents.
By law, children under 24 years old and disabled children of any age will inherit a certain portion of your estate whether you want them to or not, and no matter what you say about it in your will. If there is only qualifying child, he or she will receive 25% of your estate. If there are two or more, 50% of your estate will be divided among them.
Usufruct and Naked Ownership
Usufruct is a confusing concept if you are not familiar with it. Usufruct is a type of property ownership, but it is not full ownership. It is the right to use and control property and to receive any income the property generates. Usufruct is temporary, but often lasts until the usufructuary dies. Other conditions can be set to terminate usufruct, such as remarriage or a certain amount of time. When usufruct terminates, full ownership reverts to the naked owner.
The naked owner is the person who owns the property subject to usufruct. The naked owner cannot interfere with the rights of the usufructuary, but will eventually become full owner of the property.
Estate Planning Basics
Estate planning takes care of you, your estate, and your loved ones while you are alive, not just when you die. It does include creating your last will and testament, and taking care of other matters so that your estate passes as quickly, easily, and fully as possible to beneficiaries of you choosing, but it also includes documents designating who will take care of your affairs and how your medical care is to be carried out if you become incapacitated while you are alive.
Estate planning can include:
- Last will and testament
- Powers of attorney
- Living will
- Trusts, such a living trust, pet trust, and trusts for children and other heirs who may not be able to manage their own money or affairs
- Creating Pay on Death (POD), or Transfer on Death (TOD), accounts so that the money in the account goes directly to the named beneficiary when you die, rather than your estate