What Happens if I Outlive My Heirs?

Jul 22, 2020

What would happen if you outlived someone that you thought would be your heir?

Would their children get their portion of your estate? Or would it go to their siblings? And what if your heir has no children?

And most importantly, what do you want to happen?

You’ve got the opportunity to make that decision by making your own will. If you forgo that opportunity, Louisiana has a will for you (assuming that you live here). Our state deals with these situations in what are called the “laws of intestacy.” These laws govern what happens when someone dies without a will.

If you don’t have a will, Louisiana law will dictate who gets what out of your estate and when. Depending on your circumstances, portions may go to a spouse, children, siblings, cousins or even parents.

And some folks are OK with that, but many want to make sure they know who’s going to inherit their estate.

So, if you have not already, I would recommend that you speak with a Louisiana attorney experienced in the preparation of wills and other estate planning documents.

Well let’s consider a few possibilities of what might happen if you outlive a potential heir.

Suppose that you’ve got five children. Now four of your children have children of their own. But one of your children remains childless.

Allow me to assume that you want your own children treated equally. If you had an estate worth $100,000, than you might envision giving each child say $20,000 at your death.

Suppose one of your children with children of their own dies. Would you then want your inheritance divided four ways, ignoring those grandchildren? Or would you prefer the deceased child’s portion to go to his or her children (in other words your grandchildren) in equal portions? And what if your children with children of their own have differing numbers of offspring? One may have one child. Another may have six.

Huh. Not so simple, is it?

Well, the most common approach that I see is to leave things equally to children, with portions going equally to grandchildren if their parent is dead. But just because it is common doesn’t make it right for you.

Sometimes circumstances call for unequal treatment.

There may be a special need that one child or grandchild has that calls for a greater share. Or there may have been a misdeed (criminal behavior or chronic substance abuse or even estrangement) that calls for a reduced or even an eliminated portion for another potential heir.

Or perhaps a very good deed calls for an outsized share that one or more potential heirs would get. I’ve seen instances where one child gave up a significant part of their life to care for an aging parent for many years. And this may call for a larger share of the inheritance.

Now none of these things that I mention are recommendations. Good people can disagree about how any of the previously mentioned situations might best be handled.

But without a will, there’s only one way it’s going to be handled – the way Louisiana laws of intestacy say that they will.

If you think that you know better how you wish your estate to pass – no matter who is living at the time – see a Louisiana lawyer and have wills drafted.

Don’t leave your wishes to chance.