The Louisiana Usufruct is a form of ownership that no other state has. It is designed to make assets available to another (perhaps a surviving spouse) while preserving the rights of the naked owners (typically, the children.
But many families don't like the application of the Louisiana usufruct laws. Here are a couple of reasons why:
(1) The Surviving Spouse's Heirs May Get Nothing. Let's say Husband and Wife each have two children from prior marriages. They have $1,000,000. Husband dies leaving Wife the lifetime usufruct of his estate. So, the Wife continues to own $500,000, and Wife inherits the usufruct of Husband's $500,000. Wife has a Will leaving her entire estate to her two children.
After Husband dies, Wife spends $500,000 on her care and her basic living needs. Here comes the tricky part. When Wife dies with only $500,000 remaining in her name, the Husband's children come out of the woodwork and proclaim, "We get all of the assets in Wife's estate because her estate owes us $500,000.
So, Husband's children get everything and Wife's children get nothing. This is not what they intended by leaving each other usufruct. They did not intend for the heirs of the surviving spouse to be excluded.
(2) Another problem that comes up often in any usufruct situation (even in traditional families) is that when one spouse leaves the usufruct of the home to the surviving spouse, the surviving spouse cannot sell the home without the written permission of the heirs of the first spouse to die. This often causes friction between the heirs of the first spouse to die, and the surviving spouse.
Both of these circumstances can be solved but you need to plan ahead to solve these problems. Call 866-491-3884 from anywhere in the State of Louisiana to perhaps start a conversation about how your estate legal program can protect yourself, your spouse (if married) and your heirs the right way - and you get it right the first time!