BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Planning a will is not something many of us think about until it’s needed, but what happens to your stuff when you never write one in Louisiana? If you think your husband, wife or partner will automatically get your money and belongings, you might be surprised.

Brad Scott, an attorney and partner at Scott Vicknair, said that if someone doesn’t take the time to plan ahead and make a will, then the state will have a default plan for them.

Scott is an estate and probate attorney. He said the role of the succession lawyer begins after someone dies.

“When someone dies without a will in Louisiana, there are default rules that kick into action that determine who will inherit,” he said. “These rules are known as the laws of intestacy.”

So, who gets your stuff?

“Generally speaking, when someone does not have a will, their estate flows down to their children equally,” he said. “Spouses typically do not inherit from spouses, unless there are no children and the estate has co-owned community property between the spouses.”

If the kids are minors, the succession process doesn’t change, Scott said. Planning for this is essential.

“Unless planned for, when your child turns 18, their inheritance will be turned over to them to do as they please,” he said. “This can be disastrous for some kids who may not yet be financially mature enough to manage such things on their own.”

“Getting a will done is the only way to ensure that your wishes are followed and make sure there will not be any unnecessary complications between your heirs after you are gone,” he said.

Problems with estates can occur if there are children from a prior relationship and a new surviving spouse.

“They may want their estate to go to their surviving spouse rather than their children to provide resources for their spouse after they are gone. This can be a major concern when there is acrimony between the children and the surviving spouse.

He said with proper estate planning, families can develop solutions to keep peace in these situations and avoid unnecessary litigation after a person is gone.

“The heirs of the estate work with the lawyer to develop a plan to handle the estate and to figure out the best procedure to use to get it done in a timely and cost-effective manner. Every estate is different,” he said. “However, the biggest factor that drives how the estate will be handled is whether or not the heirs are willing to cooperate and are on the same page as to how to handle things.”

If a will is found after the estate is open and closed, Scott said people generally have five years from the date the succession was done to bring the will to court and correct it.