Are Handwritten Wills Legal in Louisiana If Not Notarized?

By A.L. Kennedy

Under Louisiana law, an olographic will is one written, signed and dated entirely in the handwriting of the testator, or person making the will, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1575. A handwritten or olographic will is generally considered valid in Louisiana as long as the entire will is in the testator's own handwriting, even if the will is not notarized, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1574 and 1575.

Under Louisiana law, an olographic will is one written, signed and dated entirely in the handwriting of the testator, or person making the will, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1575. A handwritten or olographic will is generally considered valid in Louisiana as long as the entire will is in the testator's own handwriting, even if the will is not notarized, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1574 and 1575.

Types of Wills

Louisiana law recognizes two different types of wills or "testaments": olographic and notarial, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1574. An olographic testament is one that is "entirely written, dated, and signed in the handwriting of the testator," according to Louisiana Civil Code 1575. A notarial will is one that is notarized and meets the requirements of Louisiana Civil Code sections 1577 through 1580, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1576.

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Requirements for Olographic Wills

In addition to being written entirely by the testator, an olographic will must meet several other requirements listed in Louisiana Civil Code 1575. First, an olographic will must be signed by the testator and dated, and the date must list the day, month and year. The testator must also sign the will or testament at the bottom, although he or she may add a postscript if necessary. Finally, any additions, deletions or changes must be made in the testator's own handwriting. Changes made in another person's handwriting will not be considered valid, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1575.

Extrinsic Evidence

If the date on the will is incomplete or unclear, the court may use extrinsic evidence, or evidence outside of the olographic will itself, to determine when the will was written, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1575. Since the last will to be made governs how the testator's property will be distributed, it is important to make the date clear on an olographic will and to note that the will revokes any and all previously made wills, according to the Louisiana State Bar Association.

Notarization and Witnesses

Unlike a notarial will, an olographic will does not need to be witnessed or notarized to be valid in Louisiana, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1575. Any will that does not meet the requirements for an olographic will, however, must be signed by two witnesses and by a notary, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1577. Testators who cannot write cannot make olographic wills and must have their wills notarized, according to Louisiana Civil Code 1578 through 1580.

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Are Notarized Wills Legal?

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The Format for a Legal Will

While probate laws defining the format for a valid will vary from state to state, most states acknowledge at least two different types of wills as valid. All states recognize the written will -- the most common format -- which is signed by the testator and two additional witnesses. However, technology and creativity makes way for newer formats, especially when the testator does not have access to the materials needed to execute a traditional will, and state law has evolved to recognize other, less common formats. It is important to note that, with the exception of the written will, not every state recognizes all formats as valid. Testators should always review their residential state’s probate code to determine what formats are acceptable before establishing a final will.

Do Wills Have to Be Handwritten?

Speak with attorneys across the country, and you will likely hear the same advice: most people over the age of 18 should have a will. Without one, state statutes of descent and distribution step in to govern the allocation of assets to survivors. Handwritten wills, also known as holographic wills, are legal and binding in many states. However, each state defines what is acceptable within its boundaries.

What Is a Legal Will in Texas?

A legal will in Texas is one that satisfies the requirements of the Texas Probate Code, especially sections 57 to 71. These Texas statutes describe who can make a will, what can be done with a will and the process for making a will valid. A will can be revoked under Texas law by the creation of a subsequent valid will or codicil, or by the testator destroying the physical copies of the will. And, though not required, a will can be deposited with the clerk of the testator's county of residence for safekeeping during his lifetime.

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