How to create a Basic Will in Louisiana
Louisiana has unique laws regarding wills and succession that differ from most other U.S. states due to its French and Spanish civil law heritage. Creating a will in Louisiana involves several steps. Here is an overview of the general process to create a Will in Louisiana:
- Eligibility: To create a will in Louisiana, you must be at least 18 years old and be of sound mind, meaning you comprehend the nature and consequences of creating a will.
- Gather information: Before meeting with an attorney or starting the process on your own, gather information about your assets, debts, and beneficiaries. Make a list of your properties, bank accounts, investments, personal belongings, and other assets you want to include in the will.
- Choose an executor: Select someone you trust to be the executor of your will. In Louisiana, this person is often referred to as the “executor” or “personal representative.” They will be responsible for ensuring that your wishes are carried out and managing the legal aspects of distributing your estate.
- Draft the will: With the help of an attorney or using an online template, draft your will. The will should include your name, address, and a declaration that it is your last will and testament. It should also appoint the executor and outline how you want your assets distributed to beneficiaries.
- Witnesses and signatures: For your will to be valid in Louisiana, it must be signed by you (the testator) in the presence of two competent witnesses, who then also sign the will. It’s worth noting that Louisiana has specific rules regarding holographic (handwritten) wills and notarial wills, so understanding the requirements is crucial. Using beneficiaries as witnesses might lead to complications, so it’s often advised to use non-beneficiaries.
- Safekeeping: Store your will in a secure and easily accessible location. Notify your executor about the location of the will or store it with your attorney or in a safe deposit box.
- Keep the will updated: Regularly review and modify your will, particularly after significant life events like marriage, divorce, the birth of children, or obtaining new assets. This ensures your will reflects your current wishes and circumstances.
How to create a Will online for free
Following the steps outlined above, you can create your own Last Will and Testament online for free. Our template below is suitable for most family situations. Though it’s always recommended to have an attorney review your Will when possible.
What are the different types of Wills you can create in Louisiana?
A notarial will is a formal written will prepared by a notary public in the presence of two witnesses. It is signed by the testator, the notary, and the witnesses. Notarial wills are recognized as authentic and self-proving, making the probate process smoother.
A mystic will is a sealed written will that is prepared by the testator and signed in the presence of a notary and three witnesses. It is then sealed and signed on the outer envelope. It remains sealed until the testator’s death, at which point it is opened and probated.
Louisiana has a specific statutory will form that can be used, known as a “statutory testament.” This form provides a standardized format for creating a will and is an option for those who prefer a simple and straightforward will.
A holographic will is handwritten and signed by the testator (the person making the will) but may not have been witnessed. Some jurisdictions recognize holographic wills, but they can be subject to stricter requirements and may not be accepted in all situations.
An oral will is a verbal will made by the testator on their deathbed before two witnesses. It is recognized in limited circumstances and only applies to movable property (personal property). Additionally, it must be reduced to writing within a specific timeframe after the testator’s death.
What are the benefits of creating a simple Will in Louisiana?
- Control and autonomy: Creating a will lets you decide who will inherit your assets, including money, property, and personal belongings. You have the power to ensure your things go to the people or causes you care about the most.
- Guardianship of minors: If you have young children, a will allows you to appoint a guardian to care for them if both parents pass away. It gives you peace of mind knowing your kids will be taken care of by someone you trust.
- Avoiding family conflicts: By laying out your wishes clearly in a will, you can help minimize potential disagreements among your family members regarding the division of your assets.
- Efficient probate process: With a will in place, the legal process of distributing your estate, known as probate, can be more streamlined and faster, reducing stress for your loved ones during a difficult time.
- Executor appointment: You can nominate an executor in your will, someone responsible for making sure your wishes are carried out and your estate is distributed properly.
- Philanthropic opportunities: Through a will, you have the chance to leave part of your estate to charitable organizations or causes you support, leaving a positive impact on society.
- Peace of mind: By creating a will, you gain the satisfaction of knowing you’ve taken steps to plan for the future and safeguard your loved ones’ interests.
How much does it cost to create a Last Will & Testament in Louisiana?
The cost of crafting a will varies considerably based on its complexity, the service route you opt for, and even the area in which you reside. Whether you’re looking for a straightforward, self-drafted document or a detailed, attorney-guided testament, the associated costs can range significantly. Below, you’ll find a pricing table that breaks down the average potential expenses
|Will Lawyers||Will Software||DIY Online Forms|
$150-$450+ per hour
Legal requirements for a basic Will in Louisiana
Creating a valid will in Louisiana requires adherence to certain legal requirements.
- Age Requirement: The person creating the will, known as the testator, must be at least 18 years old.
- Mental Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind, which means they understand the nature of the will, know the nature and extent of their property, and recognize their relation to living descendants, spouse, and others whose interests are affected by the will.
- Written Document: Louisiana primarily recognizes written wills, and these can be either notarial or holographic (handwritten).
- Notarial Will: This kind of will is prepared in the presence of a notary and two competent witnesses. It should be typed and follow a specific format to be valid.
- Holographic Will: In Louisiana, an olographic will is valid if it is entirely in the testator’s handwriting, dated, and signed at the end. However, the probate process for such wills can be more complex.
- Witnesses:A notarial will must be signed by the testator, in the presence of the notary and two witnesses. These witnesses must also sign the will. Unlike some states, Louisiana doesn’t have a blanket prohibition against beneficiaries serving as witnesses, but having them do so can lead to potential complications.
- The witnesses should be present at the same time when the testator signed or acknowledged the will.
- The two witnesses should understand that the document is the testator’s will.
- Signature: The will must be signed by the testator. In the case of a holographic will, it must be signed at the end of the document.
- Self-Proving Affidavit: While Louisiana does not have the exact concept of a “self-proving affidavit” as found in many other states, the witnessing procedure for a notarial will essentially embeds a verification within the will document itself.
- Requirement for Notarization: For holographic wills, notarization is not required. However, notarial wills, by definition, involve a notary.
- Revocation or Alteration: A will can be revoked or changed by the testator during their lifetime through various methods, such as creating a subsequent will or codicil or intentionally burning, tearing, canceling, obliterating, or destroying it.
- Oral Wills: Louisiana does not recognize oral wills unless made by the testator on their deathbed before two witnesses. It is recognized in limited circumstances and only applies to movable property (personal property). Additionally, it must be reduced to writing within a specific timeframe after the testator’s death.
It’s essential to keep in mind that while understanding these requirements provides a foundation, drafting a will is a critical legal task. Errors can have significant implications for asset distribution and loved ones. Therefore, it’s advisable to consult with a Louisiana-based estate planning attorney when creating or updating a will.
Notarizing a Will in Louisiana
In Louisiana, a notarial will is one of the primary types of will. By definition, this will involve a notary, however, holographic will need not be notarized.
Self-Proving Affidavit and Notarization: While Louisiana does not have the exact concept of a “self-proving affidavit” as found in many other states, the witnessing procedure for a notarial will essentially embeds a verification within the will document itself.
If I move to another state, is my Louisiana Will still valid?
If you move to another state, your Louisiana will generally remains valid, especially if it was validly executed according to Louisiana laws. However, there are some important considerations to bear in mind:
What are the executor requirements for a Will in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, the law sets forth certain requirements and considerations for individuals to serve as executors of a will. Here are the primary requirements and considerations for an executor in Louisiana:
Age: The executor must be at least 18 years old.
Mental Competency: The individual must be of sound mind, which means they need to understand the duties and responsibilities they’re undertaking as an executor.
No Felony Convictions: Louisiana generally prohibits individuals convicted of certain felonies from serving as executors unless specifically provided for in the will.
Non-Residents: Louisiana does not have a strict prohibition against non-residents serving as executors. However, they may need to appoint an agent within the state for service of process related to estate administration.
Bonding: Unless the will specifically waives the requirement or the court finds it unnecessary, Louisiana typically requires executors to post a bond. This bond serves as a form of insurance to protect beneficiaries and creditors against potential losses caused by executor misconduct. The amount of the bond will often depend on the estate’s value and the discretion of the probate court.
No Conflicts of Interest: The court may evaluate potential conflicts of interest. For instance, if someone stands to benefit inappropriately from their position as executor, the court might choose not to appoint them.
Court Discretion: Ultimately, even if someone meets all the legal requirements, the court can use its discretion to determine if an individual is suitable to serve as an executor. The court’s primary concern is the faithful and efficient administration of the estate.
Willingness to Serve: It’s also essential to remember that being named as an executor in a will doesn’t obligate the individual to serve. If they’re unwilling or unable to undertake the responsibilities, they can decline.
If you’re considering naming an executor in your will or have been named as one, it’s a good idea to consult with an estate planning attorney in Louisiana to fully understand the responsibilities and legal implications.
Living Trust Vs Will: Which one is better?
To put it simply, Living Trusts are significantly better than Wills in many aspects but the most important reason is that a Trust allows you to bypass the probate process, which is the expensive, lengthy, and stressful 6-12 month process where courts validate Wills and distribute assets to beneficiaries. This process can be extremely stressful for your family. Both tools can be used simultaneously in estate planning, with a Will often serving as a “backup” to capture any assets unintentionally left out of a trust. Deciding between a Will, a Trust, or using both depends on individual circumstances and objectives. Read more about The Benefits of a Living Trust
Here is a breakdown of the differences:
- Will: A legal document that specifies how an individual’s assets will be distributed upon their death.
- Trust: A legal entity where one party, the trustor, grants another party, the trustee, the right to hold and manage assets for the benefit of third parties, the beneficiaries.
- Will: Assets specified in a Will go through the probate process, where a court ensures the deceased person’s wishes (as specified in the will) are followed. This can take 6-12 months and be very expensive.
- Trust: Assets held in a trust typically bypass the probate process. This can result in a significantly faster, less costly asset distribution. Saving your family from expensive legal fees.
- Will: Because it goes through probate, a will becomes a public record, which means anyone can access its contents.
- Trust: Remains private, and its details aren’t usually accessible to the public. You can also create a Trust using an anonymous name to increase privacy further.
- Will: Provides instructions for asset distribution upon death.
- Trust: With a living trust, you can set specific conditions on how your assets are managed and distributed. For example, you can stagger distributions to beneficiaries or set up provisions to protect assets for minor children or beneficiaries with special needs. This level of flexibility is often more challenging to achieve with a will.
- Will: Does not provide any particular protection against creditors or lawsuits.
- Trust: Certain types, like irrevocable trusts, can offer protection against creditors or legal claims. As well as protection from family disputes.
- Will: No tax benefits.
- Trust: Certain trusts can provide tax advantages or help in estate tax planning.