How Do You Make a Valid Will and Testament In Louisiana?

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There are two forms of testaments under Louisiana law: olographic and notarial.  LA Civ Code art. 1574.   A notarial testament is the most common type of will used in Louisiana, and is the standard typed and signed will that most people are familiar with.  To make a valid notarial testament under Louisiana law, the will must be:

  1. In writing;
  2. Signed by the testator;
  3. Notarized and witnessed by two competent witnesses, who also sign the will.

 

The requirements for a valid notarial testament will in Louisiana are found at LA Civ Code art. 1577.

Who Can Make a Valid Will And Testament In Louisiana?

Under Louisiana law, there is not a required age that someone must be to create a valid testament and will.  Louisiana law strongly focuses on the formal requirements to make a valid testament.

A Louisiana Testator Must Sign The Will And Testament

Louisiana is unique in that the law sets forth different requirements for execution of a valid notarial will and testament depending upon the ability of the testator to read and sign his name.

Testator Knows How To Sign His Name And Read And Is Physically Able To Do Both

If the testator knows how to sign his name and to read and is physically able to do both,  then, 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.  LA Civ Code art 1577.

Then,  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 _________, ____.

Testator Knows How To Sign His Name And Read, And Is Physically Able To Read But Unable To Sign Name Because of a Physical Infirmity

When a Louisiana testator knows how to sign his name and to read, and is physically able to read but unable to sign his name because of a physical infirmity, then, in the presence of the notary and two competent witnesses, the testator shall declare or signify to them that the instrument is his testament, that he is able to see and read but unable to sign because of a physical infirmity, and shall affix his mark where his signature would otherwise be required; and if he is unable to affix his mark he may direct another person to assist him in affixing a mark, or to sign his name in his place. The other person may be one of the witnesses or the notary.  LA Civ Code art. 1578.

Then, 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 is his testament, and that he is able to see and read and knows how to sign his name but is unable to do so because of a physical infirmity; and in our presence he has affixed, or caused to be affixed, his mark or 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 ____, _____.

Testator Unable To Read

When a testator is unable to read, or is physically impaired to the extent that he cannot read, whether or not he is able to sign his name, then the procedure for execution of a valid Louisiana notarial testament or will is as follows:

  1. The written testament must be read aloud in the presence of the testator, the notary, and two competent witnesses;
  2. The witnesses, and the notary if he is not the person who reads the testament aloud, must follow the reading on copies of the testament. After the reading, the testator must declare or signify to them that he heard the reading, and that the instrument is his testament. If he knows how, and is able to do so, the testator must sign his name at the end of the testament and on each other separate page of the instrument.

 

Then, the witnesses and notary, in the presence of the testator, must sign the following declaration:

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 is unable to sign his name, he can affix his mark to the will.  LA Civ Code art. 1579.

The formalities prescribed for the execution of a testament must be observed or the testament is absolutely null.  LA Civ Code art. 1573.   Read our article:  Two Louisiana Supreme Court Cases Examine When Attestation Clauses In a Notarial Will Substantially Comply With the Law, And When They Don’t, to see how important it is to closely follow the requirements to make a valid notarial testament and will under Louisiana law.  The best way to make sure that you have complied with the requirements for your particular situation is to work with a Louisiana probate lawyer.

Who Is a Competent Witness For a Will And Testament Under Louisiana Law?

A person is competent to serve as a witness to a Louisiana notarial testament and will if they are NOT insane, blind, under the age of sixteen, or unable to sign his name.  A person who is competent but deaf or unable to read cannot be a witness to a notarial testament under Article 1579 (when a testator is unable to read).  LA Civ Code art. 1581.

What Is an Olographic Testament Under Louisiana Law?

An olographic testament is one entirely written, dated, and signed in the handwriting of the testator. Although the date may appear anywhere in the testament, the testator must sign the testament at the end of the testament. If anything is written by the testator after his signature, the testament shall not be invalid and such writing may be considered by the court, in its discretion, as part of the testament. The olographic testament is subject to no other requirement as to form. The date is sufficiently indicated if the day, month, and year are reasonably ascertainable from information in the testament, as clarified by extrinsic evidence, if necessary.

Additions and deletions on the testament may be given effect only if made by the hand of the testator.  LA Civ Code art 1575.