Just when you thought that all state laws about making wills were similar, along comes Louisiana. Not only are the will requirements different, but they are also strictly enforced. Only those with a sound knowledge of the succession rules and the particular twists of the inheritance laws in this community property state should consider attempting to draft a will without the aid of a Louisiana lawyer.
By far the simplest will to draft, the olographic testament permitted under Louisiana law is a will written entirely in your own hand. It must also be signed and dated in your own hand. In California and other states where it is permitted, this type of will is termed holographic. No particular legal language is required, but you must indicate in the document that you intend it to be your will. No witnesses are required to witness your signature or to sign the will.
The only other type of will permitted today in Louisiana is termed a "notorial testament." It is a typed or printed will that you must sign in the presence of two adult witnesses and a notary public. Don't just sign at the end of the will. You'll need to sign each and every page and at the very end. You also must state to the witnesses and the notary that the document is your will. Note also that a witness or notary should not receive a bequest under the will. If they are named in the will as beneficiaries, the will remains valid but the bequests are generally invalidated.
Witness Attestation Clause
Every notorial testament must contain a statement signed by the two witnesses and the notary that says you declared in their presence that the document was your testament and that you signed it at the end and on each other separate page. It must also say that, in your presence and in the presence of each other, they signed their names at the end of the will. You must also state the date. These requirements are strictly enforced and if not included can invalidate the will.
Will Types No Longer Valid
In 1999, Louisiana changed its will laws. When it did so, it eliminated three other types of wills. These will types -- the Nuncupative Testament by Public Act, the Nuncupative Testament by Prior Act and the Mystic Testament -- can no longer be used. Those people who made these types of wills before 1999 do not have to redo them, however. Any of these types of wills signed before July 1, 1999, remain valid.
Variations on a Community Property Theme
One of the problems with drafting your own will in Louisiana is the fact that the inheritance law has twists you might not expect. For example, in Louisiana a surviving spouse is entitled to a life estate in your share of the community property assets. This share is termed a usufruct. In addition, the law describes forced heirs -- your minor or disabled children -- who will inherit whether you include them in the will or not. So don't try to draft a will in this state without some knowledge of estate law, or consult with a local attorney.