June 8, 1948 probably started like any other June day in the life of Canadian farmer Cecil George Harris. Cecil was working his land in Saskatchewan when he became trapped beneath his tractor. No one was around to help him, and he remained trapped for many hours.
Cecil didn’t have a pen or paper to create a will, let alone an estate planning lawyer or witnesses. Yet, he wanted to make sure that his wife would be taken care of if he died in the farming accident. So, Cecil used his pocket knife to write his intentions on the tractor’s fender.
He etched, “In case I die in this mess I leave all to the wife. Cecil Geo Harris.”
Cecil was found alive, but he died the next day from his accident injuries. He didn’t tell anyone about the etching he made before he died. However, his neighbors found the words inscribed on the tractor fender.
The tractor fender was presented in court, and the court found that Cecil had created a valid holographic will. His wife received his estate because of the words Cecil engraved on the tractor fender.
Are (H)olographic Wills Valid in Louisiana?
Holographic wills are known as olographic wills in Louisiana, and they are valid if they meet specific requirements.
- Written entirely in the handwriting of the testator (the person making the will)
- Dated anywhere in the testament
- Signed at the end of the testament
The will remains valid if there is writing after the testator’s signature. However, the court has the discretion to determine whether anything written after the signature is part of the will.
Witnesses are not required when you create an olographic will, but when the will is presented in court, two credible witnesses must testify that the will was written and signed by the testator. These witnesses may be handwriting experts or have personal knowledge of the testator’s handwriting.
A valid olographic will that meets the statutory requirements has the same legal authority as a more traditional notarial will.
Is an Olographic Will Right for You?
If you find yourself in an emergency situation as Cecil George Harris did, an olographic will may be your only and best option. However, if you have the opportunity to make a will in a non-emergency situation, you should consult with an experienced New Orleans estate planning lawyer about creating a notarial will.
Properly executed notarial wills allow you to provide for your loved ones with greater certainty. An experienced attorney will make sure that your priorities are reflected in a legally binding document that will be upheld by Louisiana courts.
If you make a mistake creating an olographic will and the court determines the will is invalid, your property will pass according to the laws of intestacy, and your property may not be distributed according to your wishes. You can avoid this problem by contacting an estate planning lawyer today to discuss your options.
What to Do If Your Loved One Died With an Olographic Will
If your loved one dies with an olographic will, one of your first calls should be to an experienced Louisiana succession attorney. Even if you and all of the potential heirs agree that the olographic will is binding, you may still need a lawyer to convince the court that the olographic will meets statutory requirements and should be honored.
Our experienced Louisiana attorneys are here for you whether you need to create a will or make sure that your loved one’s intentions are upheld in court. Each year, we help hundreds of families throughout Louisiana with their estate planning and succession needs. Please contact us today to learn more about how we can help you create a legally enforceable will or make sure the will your loved one created is honored in court.