You may have heard of a story like this. A couple marries in midlife, and the woman moves into the man’s home. Twenty years later, the husband dies, and the wife is horrified to discover that she has no ownership of their home.
Worse, relatives of her husband — in-laws or step kids — want her to move out of the house. She faces living on the street because her husband never included her in his will.
Louisiana is an excellent state. But under our Napoleonic law, surviving spouses do not automatically inherit the private property of their deceased husband or wife.
It comes as a tremendous shock to the surviving spouse to discover she cannot live in the style she is accustomed to.
This applies only to separate property – which the deceased person owned before the marriage. It does not apply to the shared marital property.
The marital portion
Louisiana law recognizes this problem, and it has legislated something known as the marital portion, also referred to as the widow’s share. This law addresses the imbalance between separate assets and marital assets – as when one partner is rich by inheritance or by money earned before marriage – leaving the surviving spouse high and dry.
The assets in the marital portion are supposed to allow the surviving spouse to live at the level she is used to. The marital portion is typically 20 percent or less of the deceased’s total assets.
Succession law in Louisiana is full of complexities you will not find in other states. To protect your rights, work with a lawyer experienced in Louisiana successions.