Another entry in our “Louisiana Laws Explained” series…
A Last Will and Testament is the document used to convey your last wishes to everyone when you die. It’s a legally binding document that has the power to transfer property to those you want to benefit from your assets. A valid Louisiana will is recognized by the court and holds a great deal of power when it comes to movable and immovable property.
While the last will and testament is a widely used vehicle to transfer ownership of property, there are a few things you need to know about the laws that support a Louisiana last will and testament.
First, certain conditions must be met to create a valid Louisiana will. If these conditions are not met or not performed correctly, the will can be invalidated and the deceased’s property will be dealt with by order of law.
All it takes is for a family member who was left out of the will to come forward and challenge the validity of the will. You will then have to take your case to court, hire attorneys and hope for the best. If your will is in fact invalidated in court, your property may go to unintended recipients and you can’t come back to tell what you really meant.
This is why it’s important to have your Louisiana will drafted by an attorney that understands the law and has experience.
How to Write a Will in Louisiana
There are different types of will in Louisiana and you will have to choose one based on your needs. It’s a good idea to speak with an attorney to help you through the process.
Two Types of Wills
There are two basic types of will in Louisiana: Olographic and Notarial. While these terms sound complicated, it simply means one is handwritten and the other is typed. Each type has certain formalities that must be observed while executing the will or the will can be considered absolutely null.
If your will is found to be null and void after you die, there’s not much that can be done to honor your last wishes. Your property will be dispersed according to law.
Louisiana Will Requirements:
Louisiana Olographic Will Explained
An olographic will is the Louisiana handwritten will and is entirely written, dated and signed by the testator. It must be your own handwriting and you must sign the will at the end. There have been numerous cases where someone brought a handwriting expert to court to prove the will was NOT written by the testator and that can invalidate an olographic will.
You can easily find a Louisiana Olographic will sample online to follow.
Louisiana Notarial Testament
There are a few formalities that must be observed with a notarial will. The Louisiana Civil Code tells us that, “The notarial testament shall be prepared in writing and dated and shall be executed in the following manner…
- In the presence of a notary AND two competent witnesses, the testator shall declare or signify to them that the instrument is his testament and shall sign his name at the end of the testament and on each other separate page.
- In the presence of the testator and each other, the notary and the witnesses shall sign the following declaration, or one substantially similar: “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 ________, _______”
The notarial testament is the most common form of Louisiana will. You have to follow Louisiana will requirements and observe all formalities when preparing the will or your family could face issues after you pass away. Louisiana will laws are strict and must be followed.
Louisiana Inheritance Laws with a Will
You can dispose of nearly all your possessions with a Louisiana will. You can give your home to your children, vehicle to your cousin, jewelry to your nieces and stamp collection to your neighbor. The law gives you freedom to choose where your property goes to an extent.
As with most laws, there are a few instances where you can’t do exactly what you want with your property.
For example, you’ve probably heard of the Louisiana law of forced heirs. The law states that certain heirs are entitled to a portion of your estate and you can’t “will them out” with a Last Will and Testament. Many people disagree with this law, but it’s still the law of the land.
As a quick summary, forced heirs are either children who are 23 years old or younger when you die, or any age who are permanently unable to take care of themselves due to a mental incapacity or physical infirmity. Also, in the event your child dies first and they had a child who has a mental incapacity or physical infirmity and is permanently unable to take care of themselves, then they get to step in the shoes of your child and inherit the forced portion.
There’s much more to Forced Heirs in Louisiana that you can read HERE.
Louisiana Inheritance Law Without a Will
If you die without a will, you are said to have died “intestate.” The State of Louisiana has a body of law commonly referred to as intestate law that will determine what happens to your property since you did not have a will. There are specific laws that state who gets what and since you are already deceased at this point, there’s nothing you can do to let anyone know what you wanted to do with your property.
This is a broad topic and is fully covered in this article HERE.
Louisiana Will Registry
The Louisiana Secretary of State Office keeps a will registry where you or your attorney can register your will so your heirs can always locate it. The vast majority of wills are not on this list, but more people are beginning to register their wills so that there are no issues when they die.
The Louisiana will registry is designed as a way of safekeeping information pertaining to your last will and testament for when you die. You can state the place where you will keep or deposit your will or the attorney who will have that information. The fee to register your will with the Louisiana will registry is $10 and an extra $20 if you want a certified copy of the registry.
The physical will is not filed with the Secretary of State and the registry is strictly confidential until you die. Your heir will be able to present a death certificate, affidavit of death or other evidence that you have passed and will be given the proper information.
Registering your Louisiana will is a great idea because a large portion of wills go missing for obvious reasons.
Louisiana Wills and Probate Records
Once a will is probated, it becomes a public record. Anyone can access this information by visiting their local courthouse. Older probate records may be kept in court storage, so you may need to do some digging if you’re going back decades. Many Louisiana court systems have electronic files, but they only go back so far and older files are routinely kept in boxes or in another location.
Louisiana Will Checklist
No checklist can substitute the experience and knowledge of an attorney. This is simply a starting point for writing your own will in Louisiana and should not be taken as legal advice.
Olographic Wills (handwritten will) La. C.C. Art 1575
- Testator’s handwriting;
- Entirely written, dated and signed in testator’s handwriting;
- Date may appear anywhere in testament;
- Testator must sign the testament at the end of the testament;
- Date needs to show day, month and year;
- Anything that’s written by the testator after his/her signature shall not be invalid and may be considered by the court in its discretion as part of the testament.
Notarial Testament La. C.C. Art 1577
- Notary and two competent witnesses;
- Testator must declare this is his/her testament;
- Testator shall sign his/her name at the end of the testament and on each other separate page;
- Notary and 2 witnesses shall sign the declaration in the presence of the testator and each other.
Louisiana Will Templates Online
You can find Louisiana will templates online, but be careful that they are prepared by a Louisiana company. Our law is different from other states and many online will templates have been invalidated in court and it’s obviously too late at that point because the testator has died.
Always use a Louisiana attorney to help prepare your Louisiana will. Other states have been known to leave out important information that is required by Louisiana laws. You can’t always go back and change it, so be sure to do your last will and testament right the first time by contacting an attorney.
How Much Do Wills Cost in Louisiana?
Louisiana wills can range in price depending upon the assets included, the number of heirs, the complexity of your situation, whether or not you want to include a Louisiana living will and other considerations. You can expect to pay anywhere from $150 to $450 for a basic will, but large estates can spend upwards of a few thousand dollars.
This article does imply legal advice. You must speak to an attorney about your particular case. No blog post can give you legal advice, nor should it be taken as such. Please seek the guidance of an experienced attorney.