Distributing personal assets to heirs after death is a much less complex process when the decedent leaves a will. Louisiana law accepts two types of wills as valid – a notarial testament and an olographic testament.
Types of Louisiana Wills
People often believe that only the wealthy need a last will and testament, but it serves a purpose for most people for a number of reasons:
- It allows the person who creates the will ("testator") clarity on who will get their assets and what they will inherit.
- It allows the testator to keep assets out of the hands of people they don't want to inherit them, such as an estranged family member.
- A testator can identify who will care for their minor children after they pass.
- Heirs and beneficiaries named in the will can access the testator's assets easier and faster than they could without one.
- A testator can plan to save estate money on taxes, make charitable donations or make gifts to offset the estate tax.
For both types of Louisiana wills – olographic testament (sometimes called a holographic testament) and notarial testament – to be valid a testator must:
- Meet the state's legal requirements when writing the will.
- Meet state requirements about where the testator lived at the time of their death or at the time of the will's execution.
- Meet the requirements of the state's statutes where and when the will's execution took place if outside of Louisiana.
- If the testament involves real property, it must satisfy the state's requirements in the location of the property.
Notarial Testaments in the State of Louisiana
Notarial testaments are traditionally executed wills, which must be in writing, dated and signed. There are five unique forms of notarial testaments; which one to use depends on the testator's physical and mental condition at the time of the will's creation. Those conditions are:
- Testator has an understanding of how to create a signature, can read, and has the physical ability to do both.
- Testator can see and read but cannot sign the testament.
- Testator is unable to read.
- Testator is blind but can read braille (the testament will be in braille).
- Testator is legally deaf, or deaf and blind but able to read braille, sign language or visual English.
A notarial testament that the testator can read and sign is the most common in Louisiana. The testator must:
- Sign the testament on all pages.
- Sign the testament at the end.
- Sign the testament in the presence of a notary public and two competent witnesses.
- Declare or signify to the notary public and the witnesses that the will is the their final testament.
What Is a Witness Attestation Clause?
The notary public and the witnesses must sign a witness attestation clause, which states that all formalities are satisfied as required. Failure to include a witness attestation clause invalidates the will. The notary and witnesses will sign the following statement in front of the testator and each other:
"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 __, __."
Requirements for Non-reading Testators
When a testator cannot read, the will must be read aloud in front of them, the witnesses and the notary public. After the reading, the testator declares that they heard its reading and that the will is their final testament. If they can sign it, they must do so on each page and at the end of the document. The notary and witnesses must then sign the following statement in front of the testator and each other:
"This testament has been read aloud in our presence and in the presence of the testator, such reading having been followed on copies of the testament by the witnesses (and the notary if he is not the person who reads it aloud) and in our presence, the testator declared or signified that he heard the reading, and that the instrument is his testament, and that he signed his name at the end of the testament and on each other separate page; and in the presence of the testator and each other, we have subscribed our names this _day of , _."
If the testator cannot sign their name, they must affix a mark where their signature should go. If they cannot do this themselves, they can ask another person – one of the witnesses or the notary – to do it for them. The required declaration must be changed to state that the testator could not sign their name, and they affixed their mark (or had someone else do so) on each page and at the end of the document.
Olographic Testaments Under Louisiana State Law
An olographic testament is handwritten, dated and signed. The testator must handwrite the document in its entirety – if there is any preprinted or typed material on the will, the court may not admit it as valid. The will's date can appear anywhere on the document, but the testator's signature must appear at the end of it.
As with a notarial testament, an olographic will must show the testator's intent for distribution of their assets. Furthermore, Louisiana requires the testimony of two witnesses to prove that the olographic testament was indeed written, signed and dated by the testator. These two people must be credible – either handwriting experts or persons with personal knowledge of the testator's handwriting.
- Louisiana Succession Attorney: How to Get an Olographic Will Admitted to a Louisiana Court
- Justia.com: 2019 Louisiana Laws Civil Code Art. 1577. Requirements of Form
- Justia.com: 2019 Louisiana Laws Civil Code Art. 1579. Notarial Testament; Testator Unable to Read
- Louisiana Legislature: Civil Code Article 1577 Requirements of Form
- Louisiana Offices of Stephenson, Chávarri & Dawson: Louisiana Wills: What You Need to Know
- Investopedia: What Is a Will and Why Do I Need One Now?
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.