Protect Your Property: Heir Property in Louisiana

Authored By: Louisiana Appleseed

Heir Property in Louisiana

Protect Your Property

The term "title" refers to a legal interest in a piece of property such as a land or a home. A title can also refer to a document that establishes ownership of the property. A clear title means that no one else has financial interest in the property. There is no question of ownership of the property. The ownership history is traceable. Anyone who has rights or title to property can access the property, modify, or seek to sell their ownership. 

A title may not be clear if the title to the property was not transferred by formal means after an owner dies. When a property is not legally transferred or deeded to another person, the title or ownership can become "cloudy." A cloudy title can also happen when someone dies without a will or when a family does not administer a will after a decedent's death. 

Homeowners living on property passed down from family sometimes can’t take advantage of their property rights. 

After the 2005 hurricanes, some Louisiana residents were unable to receive federal and state aid for property damage. They owned their homes. They even paid property taxes. But legal documents didn’t list them as owners. So, they lacked “clear title.” Their homes were passed down through generations by family agreement, but not through the legal system. They owned “heir property” and couldn’t receive Road Home government aid or finance repairs.

If you do not have clear title, you might not be able to:

  • Sell your property.

  • Make repairs to the property.

  • Borrow money against the property.

  • Cash an insurance check.

  • Deal with a bank on a foreclosure.

  • Qualify for government aid to fix your house.

  • Get a homestead exemption for taxes.

  • Get notice of actions by the City or Parish if they try to take your home or fine you.

  • Have a court rule on “claims of heir” in a lawsuit against those falsely claiming to be heirs of the original owner.

Getting clear title used to be expensive and time consuming. But now, because the Louisiana Legislature passed Act No. 814 Protect Your Property in 2009, there’s a cheaper and faster way for many people to get clear title. Act No. 81 lets heir property owners file an “Heirship Affidavit.” It can get them clear title to homes they live in, if the estate is valued at less than $125,000. Using an Heirship Affidavit can reduce legal fees and filing costs.

Heir property comes about when necessary legal work isn’t done after a property owner dies. If you do nothing, the right to live on the property goes to an “heir.”

Heirs are:

  • Related to the deceased property owner by blood or marriage, or named in a will and
  • Alive when the property owner dies.

The heir legally owns the property. But, the property’s title does not automatically pass to the heir. Without legal paperwork, the title is unclear and “unmarketable.” Even if the property owner had a valid will, the heir still must take the original will to court in order to get clear title.

An Heirship Affidavit is a statement under oath by 2 or more heirs (including the surviving spouse, if any) as to certain facts. The affidavit can only be used if the property owner died without a valid will. Also, the affidavit can only be filed after 90 days from the property owner’s death.

Generally, an Heirship Affidavit requires:

  • Date of death of the deceased, and his or her home address at the time of death.

  • Marital status of the deceased, and the name and address of the surviving spouse, if any.

  • Names and last known addresses of the heirs, and their relationship to the deceased.

  • Legal description of the property.

  • Make sure property taxes are paid. Visit your parish tax office to make sure your property taxes are paid up and that the office has the correct name and address of the person responsible for the taxes. Some offices have this information on their web pages.
  • Have a valid will. Draft a valid will to ensure that your property will be legally passed down according to your wishes.
  • Make a family tree. Create a family tree to help all family members know who their relatives are.

There are several common documents that are used to show title or clear title to the ownership of a property including: 

  • A Will 

  • A Small Succession Affidavit 

  • An Affidavit of Heirship 

  • A Quitclaim Deed

To learn more about documents used in clearing title check out the resources: 

Last Review and Update: Sep 12, 2022
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