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When there is no will, then the person is deemed to have died intestate and the intestate succession laws apply. Under those rules in Louisiana, if there is a surviving spouse and children, then the children inherit the decedent's 1/2 share of community property subject to the surviving spouse’s right to use it for life, plus all of her separate property. But, before anyone is entitled to any distribution from the estate, the decedent's debts must be paid. So, it is true, that the beneficiaries' share of the wife's estate would be net of her debts and liabilities as of her death. It is important to realize that the intestate succession laws apply to her probate estate. Certain assets pass outside probate and thus are not governed by the intestate succession laws and are not subject to any debt. These include the following: i) joint brokerage and bank accounts which vest automatically in the surviving owner upon the death of one owner; ii) real property held as joint tenants or tenants by the entirety, which also vest automatically in the surviving owner upon the death of one owner; and iii) assets with designated beneficiaries other than the estate such as life insurance and retirement accounts.
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