Divorce Lawyers: Article 54 of the Louisiana Civil Code

Divorce lawyers often
practice within the larger field of family law. 
As family lawyers, it can be important sometimes for a persons rights
to be transferred that someone believed to be dead is declared dead by a
court.  This article goes into some of
the law behind this, as it may pertain to divorce lawyers. While divorce lawyers mainly deal with family law matters for the living, there are instances where such professionals may need to declare a missing person deceased in order that their rights may be transferred. This article goes over some of this reasoning and legal procedure. Many times when a loved one goes missing, it is important to think positively and keep hoping that they will be found. Maybe it was a simple miscommunication or forgotten relay of information that makes a family worry without good cause; and hopefully that person shows up soon. Even if a great deal of time goes by, and there is no good reason or explanation for that person’s absence, the family may still keep up hope. Eventually however, the law will consider that person dead. There are a variety of public policy and legal rationales for this type of law, with implications even for divorce lawyers.In Louisiana, a person may be declared deceased after five years. This authority for this can be found in Louisiana Civil Code article 54. If you read it, you’ll probably notice that right away this article says that “One who has been an absent person for five years is presumed to be dead.” It goes on to explain that those victims of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita are given an even shorter time to show themselves before being declared dead. This alone is truly a testament to the horrible damages and heartbreak caused by those two storms. Article 54 accelerates the time period in which a person has to be found, from five years to two years.It is also noteworthy (but not so much for divorce lawyers, however) that Article 54 has an exception for those who have been charged with a crime. To some readers, this may make perfect sense. If someone is charged with a crime and then flees the state on bail, they could theoretically disappear for five years, and be declared dead. Were this to actually happen, there could be a whole host of procedural and constitutional hurdles for the District Attorney if that person was subsequently found. For example, there may be issues as to double jeopardy, or the statute of limitations on a particular crime. So for people charged with a crime and fleeing, you are never dead, only missing.Also, it may seem morbid, but one of the biggest reasons for divorce lawyers to declare someone dead is that the legal death of an individual can trigger other important rights for their friends and family. For example, if the missing person had a will or other property, it is important to keep those things in the hands of the living. After a person is declared legally dead, the process of parceling out their possessions can finally begin. If in fact they died intestate, without a will, then it is equally important to keep their property in the family. Failure to do so could result in penalties on the property.One final reason this law is important to divorce lawyers in Louisiana is probably the most simple one: closure. The fact remains that when a family loses a loved one, and that person is declared missing rather than dead, the agony can last forever. Many families prefer that the formal mourning process begin, and so the tragedy which has befallen them can be put in the rear-view mirror. Different states in our country have different procedures, policies, and waiting times for declaring someone who is missing to be deceased. Louisiana makes the determination simple and straightforward.The above is purely informational and not legal advice. Will Beaumont. New Orleans.

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