There are certain requirements for a valid and enforceable will in Louisiana. The first is that someone must be an adult. There are also witness and notarization requirements that vary slightly depending on the type of will someone drafts.
Those requirements exist to enforce the third and arguably most important requirement. Specifically, someone must have the appropriate mental capacity to draft legally binding documents. People sometimes refer to having legal testamentary capacity as being “of sound mind.”
What does Louisiana require from those hoping to draft or update estate planning documents, such as wills?
People must understand the documents and their situation
To have testamentary capacity in Louisiana, an individual needs to meet a few basic standards. They generally need to understand the nature of the documents they intend to draft. They must be aware of how the will or other testamentary documents they create will affect their property and their loved ones.
In most cases, testamentary capacity also necessitates an understanding of one’s circumstances. An individual cannot make a reasonable and appropriate decision about the distribution of their assets when they can no longer recall what property they own. Similarly, they need to be able to recall the names of their chosen beneficiaries and understand the relationship that they have with these parties.
Someone whose cognitive abilities have begun to decline due to age or health issues may not truly understand what impact their documents would have on others and their ultimate legacy. One of the reasons witnesses are important for the validation of testamentary documents is that those adults can testify about someone’s mental state, memory and understanding at the time of the signing.
Family members can raise questions about capacity
Those who believe that an individual lacked the necessary capacity to draft documents can challenge or contest a will in Louisiana succession court. Evidence ranging from medical records to testimony about someone’s cognitive decline could help convince the courts that documents are not valid.
The courts can sometimes set aside documents drafted when an individual did not have the necessary capacity to understand the paperwork and their circumstances when they drafted it. Learning more about the rules for estate planning and succession litigation may benefit both testators and those with an interest in an estate accordingly.