Upon an individual’s death, estate and probate law determines the distribution of the individual’s assets. When a valid will is in place, the process is a testate inheritance. An intestate estate is the result when the death occurs without a will.
There is a difference in the distribution of assets between these laws of inheritance.
Testate estate processes
A testate succession means legitimate will is in place at the time of an individual’s passing. The two elements typically used to validate the will include the will being a written document and the individual was legally competent at the time to make the decisions in the will. A notarized and witnessed will adds strength to the legitimacy of the document, although using an attorney to draft the will increases the likelihood of recognition and enforcement by the court. Distribution of the estate occurs as follows:
- Legal fees for the estate attorney are set aside.
- The executor pays any existing debts using the estate’s assets.
- Distribution of any remaining assets takes place as outlined in the terms of the will.
Intestate inheritance proceedings
If a will is unenforceable or there is no will in place upon a person’s death, the estate moves through intestate proceedings. State law governs the distribution of property, and there are specifications as to who receives what and the order in which they are to receive it. In Louisiana, distribution of separate property takes place first with the children of the deceased., while community property considers the spouse.
Estate planning prior to one’s passing helps address these differences. A valid will ensures your wishes take precedence for estate distribution.