Louisiana has exceptionally specific rules that must be followed before a will can be considered valid in Louisiana. You can’t simply title your document, “Last Will and Testament” and hope for the best. It will be considered invalid if you don’t follow the exact requirements that the State of Louisiana has laid out for wills within its borders.
You must take extreme care to ensure your document follows the Louisiana guidelines for your Last Will and Testament or you run the risk of it being invalid and unenforceable. Your property will then be distributed under Louisiana intestate law and your last wishes will not be recognized. This could lead to individuals receiving your property that you did not wish and people you intended to leave property to could be left in the cold.
There are a few categories of types of wills that are valid in Louisiana. Your document must fall within the parameters of accepted categories or it will be ineffective to pass your property to the individuals you intended.
You may think that a judge will be able to tell what your wishes were from your document, but it will be unenforceable if it does not fall within the proper form for a valid Last Will and Testament. Even if the judge wanted to honor your wishes, their hands are tied if the will is invalid due to not following proper procedure.
It’s important to be careful and not rely on a will that you find online or that you receive from a non-attorney. While they may mean well, you want to be sure it’s valid. Online wills are almost always incorrect because they do not follow Louisiana law. Other states are completely different from Louisiana and simply failing to follow one of the rules for Louisiana wills can lead to litigation or failing to have your last wishes honored when you die.
Two Types of Louisiana Last Will and Testaments
There are two types of Last Will and Testaments under Louisiana law: the Olographic Testament (handwritten) and Notarial Testament. The rules for each must be followed exactly for your Last Will and Testament to be held valid. No matter which type of will is chosen, it must be made by the testator or person for whom the will is intended. You can’t have someone make a will on your behalf and you can’t have a joint will such as a wife and husband.
There are obvious reasons why Louisiana law doesn’t allow someone to “take out” a will for someone else. This could lead to bad dealings and is the reason Louisiana law requires the will be made by the testator.
Louisiana Requirements for Olographic Testament (the handwritten will)
The handwritten will in Louisiana is known as an Olographic testament. It is entirely written, dated and signed in the handwriting of the testator. Here are the requirements of a handwritten will in Louisiana:
- Handwriting of Testator – an Olographic testament must be entirely written in the testator’s handwriting. Anything written beyond the signature “may” be considered by the court, in its discretion, as part of the testament. Many people run into issues when they download an online will that has a fill-in-the-blank format.
- Signed by Testator – The will must be signed by the testator. It must be his/her handwriting. A handwriting expert may be brought in if there’s any doubt.
- Dated – the date must be in the handwriting of the testator, same as everything else in a handwritten will. The date may appear anywhere in the testament. If the date is missing, the court may use evidence to determine the date of the document.
*It should be noted that additions and deletions to the handwritten will may only be given effect if written by the testator. There are times when an individual may want to update a will, but it must be in their handwriting.
Louisiana Requirements for a Notarial Testament
Notarial testaments in Louisiana have a very specific format that must be followed. It’s dangerous to assume an online company will know Louisiana law, so it’s best to consult with an attorney.
Here are the requirements for a Louisiana notarial will –
In the presence of a Notary Public and two competent witnesses:
- The testator must sign the will on each separate page;
- Sign at the end of the will;
- The testator must declare or signify to the Notary Public and the two witnesses that the instrument is his or her testament.
But wait, there’s more. The notary and the two competent witnesses SHALL sign a declaration in the presence of the testator similar to this one:
“In our presence the testator has declared or signified that this instrument is his/her testament and has signedit at the end and on each other separate page, and in the presence of the testator and each other we have hereunto subscribed our names this ____day of______,______.”
This is known as the attestation clause and is incredibly important to the validity of the will. It signifies that the notary public and the two competent witnesses that all of the necessary requirements of the notarial testament have been observed and completed.
The attestation clause is rigidly followed and the notarial testament will be deemed invalid if it’s missing. You don’t want to make a mistake on this part and have the will invalidated. There are numerous Louisiana cases that show this is a possibility.
Make Sure Your Will is Honored When You Die
No matter which category of Louisiana wills you decide to use, be sure to strictly follow each requirement. It’s always best to speak with an attorney and have them draft your will. This will ensure that everything is done correctly and your will can be probated when you die.
Remember, once you die you cannot go back to tell everyone what you wanted to happen to your property. Also, even if the judge is sympathetic to your case, he or she will not be able to probate your will if it’s invalid due to not following the proper formalities.
A valid Last Will and Testament will make the succession process much smoother for your surviving spouse and family members.
We can help you draft a Last Will and Testament that will ensure your last wishes are honored. You want to make sure it is done correctly and not through a company such as LegalZoom or other online companies that don’t understand Louisiana laws. Our firm can also help you review and update old wills to make sure they reflect your wishes.
Send us a quick message explaining your situation and we will get back to you shortly!
Attorney R. Jerome Andries