Last Will and Testament

Do I Need a Will?


Should I have a will? We get this question from clients often. The answer to this question depends on what you want to accomplish with regard to transferring your estate at the time of your death. A will is just one tool you can use to make sure your loved ones receive the assets you wish to leave them.

What Is a Will?

A will is a legal document that sets forth your wishes regarding who you want to receive your assets, how your liabilities are to be paid, who will be in charge of your succession, and can also provide for who will care for your minor children. There are different valid forms of wills, including the following:

Statutory/Notarial Will

A statutory will is self-proving, and is the traditional type of will with which most people are familiar. It is a usually prepared by an attorney and has to be signed in front of a notary public in the presence of witnesses.

Olographic Wills

Olographic wills are hand written wills. Although such wills are very easy to prepare and can be done without the assistance of an attorney, there are specific rules that must be followed in order for it to be valid. It must be entirely written, dated, and signed in the handwriting of the testator. It also 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 of each page. Any additions, deletions or changes to the will must be made in the testator's own handwriting.

Living Will

Living wills do not deal with the distribution of your property. It is a medical directive in which you provide instructions regarding whether you are to receive and remain on life support in the event you become incapacitated. It can also specify whether you want to leave the ultimate decision of whether to remove life support in the hands of your family, or in the hands of your doctors.

Why Do I Need a Will?

Louisiana law does provide default rules as to what will happen to your property in the event you pass away without a will. In many situations, the default rules accomplish what the person may want to happen. Many times however, there are certain nuisances of the law that are unanticipated that may result in your wishes not being achieved. To avoid this situation, it is best to have a will prepared.

Creating a will can also minimize potential conflict between your survivors. All too often succession proceedings end up in litigated court battles that drag on for years. Such situations often divide families and result in expensive legal bills. A properly crafted will can help avoid this problem after you are gone.

How Do I Get a Will?

The first thing is not to put if off. If you are concerned about what will happen after you are gone, we encourage our clients to sit down as soon as possible with an attorney to figure out what needs to be done. When you meet with your attorney, it is helpful to prepare and bring with you a list of your assets and debts, and give some thought to who you want to receive your assets.

Pay special attention to items of sentimental value such as family heirlooms that you may want to transfer to a specific person. Be sure to select an attorney that focuses on estate planning. Although many attorneys list will preparation as a service, many are not familiar with the common drafting problems and mistakes that can result in your wishes not being carried out.