Why Some People Might Have Multiple Wills
Under ideal circumstances, an estate plan should be coherent, consistent, and avoid ambiguity. However, some people might believe it necessary to create more than one will.
Why Someone Creates More Than One Will
- They have properties in other states or countries. A will is meant to account for and disburse property in a particular state. While a will written in Louisiana could be enforced in another state, this could necessitate initiating succession proceedings in different jurisdictions. Some people might create separate wills in an attempt to simplify probate proceedings between different courts.
- They wish to minimize estate taxes. An individual who owns property in another state or foreign country might try to circumvent or diminish their beneficiaries’ expected tax obligations by probating high-value assets in a more tax-favorable setting. However, anyone seeking to alleviate taxes should consult an estate planning professional, as concurrent proceedings could actually result in steep financial penalties.
- They need to alter an existing will. If someone wants to alter an existing will, they might create a codicil to amend its terms. The testator could also create an entirely new will altogether. However, codicils can create complications in succession, and a new will must still be valid under Louisiana law to be recognized by a probate court.
The Succession Risks of Multiple Wills in Louisiana
If your loved one died with multiple wills and failed to leave clear-cut instructions as to their intent, the estate could be driven into conflict.
Potential Problems Caused by Multiple, Unresolved Louisiana Wills
- Confusion. If the deceased person wrote multiple wills but did not make any effort to revoke the previous wills, their loved ones may be unsure which will should be considered valid and submitted to the parish probate court.
- Legal complications. When the estate executor cannot determine which will is legally valid, they could be required to submit a copy of each will to the succession court. The probate clerk or the probate judge may have to order a special hearing to assess each document. Even if the designated heirs do not wish to contest the provisions of any of the estate planning documents, the estate must still bear the financial burden of additional judicial processing.
- Litigation. If the wills contradict one another or request significant alterations—such as the disinheritance of a child or other named beneficiary—the estate could be thrust into litigation. A prospective heir could allege that the most recent will is fraudulent, a product of undue influence, or that the testator lacked the mental capacity to understand and appreciate estate planning decisions.
Regardless of the deceased person’s reasons for having multiple wills, an ambiguous estate plan is significantly more likely to cause friction within families and between loved ones. When creditors cannot be paid or inheritances are put in jeopardy, there is an increased risk of litigation.
Even simple estate challenges can have unexpected consequences. For example, a failed probate lawsuit could drain the estate of its resources or force the succession court to invalidate the existing wills.
If a will cannot be executed, the court may be obliged to place the estate into intestacy proceedings, adhering to a strict legal formula that does not honor the decedent’s last wishes.
Contact a Louisiana Succession Attorney
Trying to make sense of multiple wills can prove to be a challenge even for legal clerks and courts. The Scott | Vicknair Estate & Probate Division has years of experience defending estates and legacies across Louisiana.
You do not have to let ambiguity or family disputes put your loved one’s legacy at risk. Please call us at 504-264-1057 to get started on your case today.