Successions and Usufruct

Wife Inherits Usufruct. What are Usufructuary Rights? Obligations To Naked Owners?

There's lots of confusion out there in the great state of Louisiana about there about the rights and obligations of someone who owns the usufruct. This should start to clear things up.

It is common, when a married person dies, whether they had a last will and testament or not, for their surviving spouse to inherit the usufruct. People try to guess what everyone's rights are without realizing there is specific Louisiana law which dictates the rights and obligations of the usufructuary.

First, we must determine whether an asset is a consumable thing or a nonconsumable thing. Then we can determine the usufructuary's rights.

Let's say, for example, that Husband died without a last will and testament. On the date that Husband died, Husband and Wife owned community property. They owned $400,000 in their bank accounts, and they owned 1,000 shares of stock in ABC Corporation.

Money is a consumable thing because it cannot be used without being expended or consumed. The share of stock are a nonconsumable thing because they may be enjoyed without alteration of their substance.

When Wife inherited the usufruct of $200,000 of money (a consumable thing), Wife became the owner of it and could consume it as she sees fit. But when she dies or remarries, she owes the naked owners $200,000, regardless of what happened to the money after she received it.

When Wife inherited the usufruct of 500 shares of stock of ABC Corporation (a nonconsumable thing), she gets to keep the dividends that the shares produce, but when she dies or remarries, whichever occurs first (the termination of Wife's usufruct), she must deliver the 500 shares to the naked owners, regardless of their appreciation or depreciation. 

And when a nonconsumable is sold, the usufruct attaches to the money that is the proceeds of the sale, and usufruct becomes a usufruct of a consumable.

This post is for informational purposes only and does not provide legal advice. Please do not act or refrain from acting based on anything you read on this site. Using this site or communicating with Rabalais Estate Planning, LLC, through this site does not form an attorney/client relationship.

Paul Rabalais
Louisiana Estate Planning Attorney
Phone: (225) 329-2450