It is estimated that almost 70% of individuals in the United States pass away without a will. The problem with this is, if you die and do not have a will, you lose all control of who inherits your estate. Additionally, your estate can be subject to costly but unnecessary estate taxes as a result. This can create a significant and expensive issue for your loved ones.
So why are more people not creating a will? Because many wrongly assume that wills are too expensive or take forever to draft. However, both of these assumptions are not only wrong but prevent millions of people from taking a necessary and crucial step in their estate planning. Creating a will in Louisiana does not have to be difficult, and with help from Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson, L.L.C., we can make sure that the process is that much easier.
Two Types of Wills in Louisiana
Under Louisiana’s current laws, there are two forms of valid wills: the olographic testament (i.e., holographic testament in other states) and notarial testament. For either of these wills to be accurate, they must be made by the testator and meet the following criteria:
- Meet the legal requirements of Louisiana.
- Meet the specific requirements of the state where the testator was domiciled at their death, or when the will was executed.
- Meet the specific requirements of the state’s statutes where the will was executed at the time the will was executed (other than Louisiana).
- If the will involves real estate, it must meet the requirements of the state’s laws where the real estate is located.
Notarial Testament Requirements
Five different forms can be used to create a notarial testament under the Louisiana Code. What form you use will depend on the mental and physical condition of the testator.
Consider the following conditions:
- A form when the testator knows how to read and sign their name and can physically do both.
- A form when the testator can read but is physically unable to sign their name.
- A form when the testator cannot read.
- A form when the testator is blind but knows how to read braille and is physically able to do so.
- A form when the testator has been legally declared physically deaf or blind and deaf but can read sign language, visual English, or braille.
Generally, most wills fall under the first category, where the testator knows how to read and sign their name. As a result, the testator must also complete the following actions to have a valid will.
- Sign at the end of the document.
- Sign on each page of the will.
- Sign all the documents in the presence of a notary and two competent witnesses, and
- Declare to the notary and the two competent witnesses that the instrument is their testament.
The Witness Attestation Clause
Additionally, to complete a notarial testament, the two witnesses and the notary also need to sign a statement, while the notary, the testator, and the two witnesses are together. This statement confirms that all the testamentary formalities have been followed. Failure to include this clause in the testament invalidates the will.
According to Louisiana law, this statement needs to be in the following form:
“In our presence, the testator has declared or signified that this instrument is his testament and has signed it 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 _________, ____.”
Do not confuse the witness attestation clause with a testator attestation clause, which is also required in a will. The testator attestation clause is a statement placed before the testator’s signature and explains how the will was witnessed and signed. Going over all of these formalities with an experienced estate planning attorney can help ensure that you complete each step of this process accurately and include all the necessary information.
Olographic Testament Requirements
In Louisiana, an olographic testament is a will that is entirely written, signed, and dated in the testator’s handwriting. Yet, even though the rules tend to seem more relaxed than those of a notarial testament. The document still must show the testator’s intent that they meant for the document to serve as their last will.
The requirements for an olographic will include the following:
- Handwritten: The entire testament must be in the handwriting of the testator. Problems arise when these wills contain material that is partially handwritten and partially typed. In situations where this occurs, the court will look at only the handwritten portion and figure out if it meets the olographic testament requirements.
- Dated: There needs to be a clear date that appears somewhere in the will. The date is sufficiently indicated if the month, day, and year are reasonably discoverable from the information stated in the will. If it is not clear, the court will have to look at other evidence to figure out the date.
- Signed: Even though the testator must sign their name at the end of the will. If anything is documented below the signature line, it does not mean that the will is invalidated. Instead, it is up to the court to figure out if the additional language is part of the will.
How Can Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson, L.L.C., Help You With Your Will?
At Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson, LLC, our legal team can take care of your will’s legal details. We know that many people are hesitant to take on the process because they fear it will take forever or be overly complicated. However, our estate lawyers have many years of experience in wills, successions, and estate planning, and we know how to comply with all the procedural requirements.
- Save Time and Energy: When you work with our firm, we can handle all the complex tasks of preparing your will, making sure it is crafted accurately—saving you a whole lot of time and energy in the process.
- Do the Research; With laws changing every day, the process may seem quite challenging. However, our firm can take care of all of this research for you. We can look into the IRS regulations, federal regulations, and Louisiana rules and verify that your will is up-to-date,
- Help You Save More Money: We can do more than just prepare you with a will. Our team can look into your whole estate, figuring out how we can get you additional financial benefits and tax breaks.
Do not struggle over a bunch of legal forms, hoping your will is prepared correctly. Instead, contact Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson, L.L.C. today, or call our law office at 504-523-6496. Let us get you the legal help that you need.
You need a will — even if you’re not ‘rich.’(2019). By Bill Bischoff. MarketWatch