I was working with the surviving husband of a wife who recently passed away. He lived in Mandeville. He came to seem me in our Mandeville, Louisiana office because he wanted to complete his wife's Louisiana Succession. He knew he would want to sell the house in a few months and he know he could not sell the house unless his wife's Succession was complete.
So I asked the gentleman if his wife had ever signed a last will and testament. At that moment, he pulled out a couple of sheets of paper and said, "Yes, we prepared our Wills together - here it is."
I read it. It was beautifully written. It talked about how much their children meant to them and it discussed how they would like to the children to cooperate in dividing up the family assets. It stated who they wanted to be the executor, and it stated their wishes about how they wanted their estate to be used to provide for the education of the grandchildren.
After I read it, surprising to him, I looked up and said, "This is not worth the paper that it is written on."
Then he said, "But we heard that in Louisiana you can have your own handwritten Will, so that's what we did."
They took it upon themselves to write a joint will. The husband did all of the handwriting. The wife did not play much of a role in the physical preparation of it, but they both signed it. They even had a couple of friends sign as witnesses.
I told him, "This last will is invalid. There is no such things as a "Joint Will" in Louisiana, and even if it was just her Will, it doesn't meet all of the formality requirements of an olographic will in Louisiana.
So we are having to treat her Succession and her Estate as if she had no Will. We are starting the probate process in a manner where we must follow that state's rules regarding who gets what, which is not the same as their plan.
My suggestion is that even if you follow all of the formality rules that must be followed when you prepare your own olographic Will (your handwriting, dated and signed in the right places, etc.), don't be too sure things will go smooth when your family lawyer's up and starts the probate proceeding. Just one word written the wrong way or in the wrong context could mess up your family relationships for generations. Get some professional help.
As a Louisiana attorney certified as a Specialist by the Louisiana State Bar Association in Estate Planning and Administration, and as the author of the book, "Estate Planning in Louisiana," and having helped thousands of families all across Louisiana create, maintain, and follow through with an estate legal program that protects themselves and their families, you may want to give my office a call to start a conversation to protect your family. From anywhere, call 866-491-3884. Don't procrastinate!