Did you know that if you’re over the age of 18 and have a bank account, it’s recommended that you have a last will and testament? While you might be a little behind with estate planning according to this, it’s never too late.
A simple step towards creating an estate plan is by familiarizing yourself with your last will and testament options. Louisiana wills can either be notarial or olographic wills. Most people are familiar with the notarial version, which is why we’ve dedicated this blog to explaining the intricacies surrounding olographic wills in Louisiana.
In this post, the Shreveport estate planning attorneys from the Greenwald Law Firm explain what an olographic will is and the guidelines that must be followed to ensure validity. It’s important to remember that this information pertains to Louisiana only. Some states do not recognize olographic wills and those who do have their own specific laws.
What is an Olographic Will?
A last will and testament is a legal document outlining how a person wants their assets and property to be distributed after death. It specifies who will inherit their belongings, such as family money, real estate, and personal items, and often names an executor to manage the estate until its final distribution. This document is crucial to a person’s estate plan as it ensures their wishes are respected and legally followed.
The most common type of will is a notarial will. This type of will is a formal document prepared by a legal professional, typically a notary, and is executed in the presence of witnesses. A notarial will is notarized, ensuring all legal requirements are met and the testator’s wishes are clearly stated. As an added legal measure, a notarial will includes a witness attestation clause and a testator attestation clause to reiterate what both the witnesses and the testator have signed. These provisions add an extra layer of legal verification and can simplify the probate process after the testator’s death.
The other type of last will and testament that Louisiana residents can choose is an olographic will. This legal document is distinct because it is entirely handwritten by the testator (the person making the will). While a handwritten will may seem informal, it’s not a note to a person’s family. A handwritten will is still considered a formal document dictating how a person wishes his or her estate to be distributed.
To be considered a legally valid will, it must be written, dated, and signed in the handwriting of the testator in the presence of two witnesses. An olographic testament does not need to be notarized or written with a notary present, making it more personal and straightforward than a notarial testament.
Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Louisiana?
Yes, a handwritten will is legal in Louisiana as long as two competent witnesses are present while the testator writes the entire document by hand, dates it, and signs it. Unlike a notarial will, it does not have to be signed before a notary or notarized.
The two witnesses overseeing the testator write their own last will and testament. They must have personal knowledge of the testator’s handwriting or be handwriting experts. This is critical when creating an olographic testament to prevent fraud and can be beneficial if the will is questioned in court.
Louisiana Law Regarding Olographic Testament
Louisiana Code of Civil Procedure Article 2883 provides the legal guidelines for an olographic testament. Under this Louisiana law, it is necessary to provide evidence from two reliable witnesses confirming that the will was entirely handwritten, dated, and signed by the testator to establish the validity of the handwritten will.
In its proceedings, the court must verify the authenticity of the handwriting and signature through questioning or by examining written affidavits or witness depositions. These essential details regarding the handwriting and signature of the testator must be documented in the court’s official records.
Will a Handwritten Will Hold Up in Court?
Since handwritten wills do not require notarization, they can be difficult to uphold in court. The will should be recognized in court as long as the olographic testament is written entirely in the testator’s handwriting and witnessed by two competent witnesses.
If the handwritten will includes pre-printed material, it could be considered invalid. The testator must handwrite the entire document. This includes a premade document with blanks to be filled in.
Another problem with a handwritten will is if the testator makes bequests. For example, if the testator tells the family what to do with property following their death but does not give them property, the handwritten will can be voided by the court.
When creating a handwritten will, it’s important to work with an experienced Louisiana estate planning attorney. At the Greenwald Law Firm, your Shreveport will attorney will ensure your handwritten will meets the guidelines set forth by the state of Louisiana. Working with an estate planning attorney like Joey Greenwald can also mitigate family complications following your death, especially if your will was handwritten.
Does a Handwritten Will Have to be Notarized?
No, a handwritten will does not need to be notarized. In fact, if a notary signs a handwritten will, it can negate the document. Only the testator should sign a handwritten will.
How To Write an Olographic Will in Louisiana
If you plan to handwrite your will, it must follow Louisiana’s specific guidelines. Not only can this void your will if it’s contested in court, but it can create unwanted family drama following your death. In the section below, we’ll explain the important requirements your handwritten will must follow.
Louisiana Olographic Will Requirements
Handwritten wills in Louisiana must adhere to the state’s guidelines, or the court will not recognize the document.
For a handwritten will to be considered valid, the entire will must be handwritten by the testator. This handwriting requirement is crucial as it serves as a personal verification of the document’s authenticity. Secondly, the will must be dated. The date is important to establish the testament’s timeline and determine its precedence over any other testamentary documents. Finally, the will must be signed by the testator. This signature is essential as it signifies the testator’s intention to give effect to the document as their final testamentary expression.
While these requirements may appear straightforward, the actual application and interpretation in probate court can be complex. Individuals should seek legal guidance to ensure that their olographic will is drafted correctly and aligns with their estate planning goals.
Navigating an Olographic Last Will in Louisiana: Tips and Legal Insights
Throughout this blog, we’ve detailed important aspects of a handwritten will and the guidelines that must be followed to be considered valid in Louisiana. In this final section, we’ll leave you with some simple, important points to remember when creating an olographic will.
- Choose two competent witnesses who recognize your handwriting.
- Write the entire will by hand to prove it’s really yours.
- Include the date on the will to show when you made it.
- Sign the will to confirm it’s your final decision.
- Use clear and concise language to avoid confusion.
Need Estate Planning Assistance? Call Shreveport Attorney Joseph Greenwald Today
Planning for your loved one’s life following your death is something that no one wants to think about. However, it’s critical that you don’t put off estate planning, especially creating a last will and testament.
At the Greenwald Law Firm, our attorneys can help with any questions you may have regarding your estate planning. Whether you have questions about estate taxes, need to ensure your will is up to date, or need to create a will, our experienced attorneys can guide you through these legal intricacies. Give us a call at (318) 219-7867 or reach out online to schedule a free consultation today.