Hand-written and oral wills

Hand-written and oral wills

| May 29, 2020 | Firm News |

Louisiana law allows for people to leave a valid will by speaking their wishes out loud, or by writing them by hand. It seems like these possibilities should make things easier. However, the requirements for these types of wills are so strict that they aren’t necessarily any easier to draft than a typewritten will. They may also be more likely than typewritten wills to create problems when it comes time to administer the person’s estate. These problems can be incredibly frustrating for families of the deceased, and they can lead to time-consuming, expensive and emotionally wrenching legal disputes.

To create a noncupative will, also known as an oral will, the person must speak their wishes to a notary public in the presence of three witnesses. These witness must reside in the same place where the execution of the will takes place. If three local witnesses are not available, there must be five witnesses in total. The notary must take dictation of the will, and the testator (the person speaking the will) must sign, or expressly state why they cannot provide a signature. These are just some of the requirements, and if any of the requirements are not met, the will is invalid.

Handwritten wills, also known as holographic wills, have less onerous requirements, but they can create problems as well. A holographic will must be entirely written, dated and signed by the testator. If the testator forgets to date or sign the will, it is invalid. Holographic wills can also cause problems if interested parties disagree about their authenticity. If someone thinks the will does not look like the testator’s handwriting, they may dispute the will’s validity, leading to a complex legal dispute.

If the will is invalid, the estate must be distributed through Louisiana’s laws of intestate succession. This can take months of the court’s time, and the court fees come out of the estate, leaving less for the heirs.

With the help of experienced estate planning attorneys, people can create a will that will stand up to legal challenges, protect their family’s assets and leave a legacy for generations to come.