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Understanding the unique Louisiana doctrine of “forced heirship”

On Behalf of | Jul 19, 2023 | Estate Planning

Parents often leave the bulk of their estate to their adult children – especially if their spouse has predeceased them or they’re divorced. However, an adult child typically doesn’t have a legal claim to any of a parent’s assets if that parent didn’t include them in their will or other part of their estate plan (like a trust). 

Some parents don’t include their adult children because they believe they’re already given them more than enough advantages (and money). Sometimes, parents and adult children become estranged for any number of reasons, and the parents simply choose not to leave them an inheritance. 

Who are considered “forced heirs?”

In Louisiana, however, we have a unique legal doctrine called “forced heirship.” This means that if a parent dies when their adult child (18 or older) is still under the age of 24 when their parent dies, they are, in most cases, legally entitled to 25% of their parent’s estate even if they’re not listed as a beneficiary in the estate plan. If there are two or more children who qualify as forced heirs, they split a total of 50% of the estate. Note that not all assets in an estate may count towards that 25%.

Forced heirship also applies to any adult child, regardless of age, who is “permanently incapable of taking care of their persons or administering their estates…[because of] mental incapacity or physical infirmity.”  Of course, even if that were an option, nearly all parents provide for dependent adult children in their estate plans – often via special needs trusts.

There are exceptions – and there’s more to know

There are some exceptions to the forced heirship requirement (such as if an adult child has a history of violence toward their parent). There are also instances where the forced heirship is passed on to the grandchild if an adult child who would be eligible if they were alive has predeceased their parent.

This is just a brief look at forced heirship, which Louisiana is the only state in the country to recognize. If you have questions about it as it applies to your specific circumstances, it’s wise to get experienced legal guidance.