Contesting a Will in Louisiana
A will contest is technically a lawsuit. Since a will is representative of the deceased person’s last wishes, Louisiana only lets certain interested parties initiate litigation.
In general, the only parties who can contest the provisions of a will are the following:
- People with a compelling interest in the will, including named heirs, disinherited beneficiaries, and creditors
- People who, under ordinary circumstances, would have a legal right to inherit the decedent’s assets through probate or intestacy proceedings
When you challenge the validity or provisions of a Louisianan’s last will and testament, you are—in effect—claiming the will was not executed in accordance with state law.
The Grounds for Challenging an Estate
- Undue influence. The person writing the will, or testator, must freely create the will on their own. If the testator was coerced or misled into writing a will or creating a codicil to a will, the will could be contested on the grounds of undue influence.
- Improper execution. A will is only valid if it was executed in accordance with state law. Louisiana only permits the execution of notarial wills, or wills that are typed and stamped by a notary public, and olographic wills, or wills that are written entirely in the testator’s own handwriting. If any of the formal, legal requirements for executing a will are not met, the will or any amendments could be dismissed entirely.
- Lack of mental capacity. Louisiana law presumes that most adults of sound mind have the right to write a will and make other estate-related decisions. However, if the testator does not understand how their will could affect their assets or impact their estate, they may lack the so-called testamentary capacity needed to execute a Louisiana will.
Under most circumstances, the burden of proof is on the person initiating the will contest.
The Aftermath of a Successful Will Contest
- The will could be reformed. When a Louisiana succession court adjudicates a will contest, they have a legal obligation to respect the intent of the testator. If the will contest relates to a single line in the testament or is otherwise easily addressed by a simple amendment, the court may elect to strike the line without restructuring or reforming the entire document.
- The will could be replaced. If a new or updated will has been located, the court may allow the decedent’s personal representative to commence probate in accordance with the terms and conditions of the alternate will.
- The will could be revoked. If the contest results in the will being revoked, and there is no alternate will available, the probate court may be forced to enter the estate into intestacy. In other words, the deceased person’s estate will be treated as if they had no will and no estate plan. Intestacy can be disastrous for heirs, since the Bayou State’s Code of Civil Procedure mandates that intestate assets be distributed to beneficiaries in accordance with a strict legal formula. In most cases, this legal formula privileges surviving spouses and other close relatives, even at the expense of adopted children, surviving parents, and other loved ones.
Contact a Louisiana Estate Litigation Attorney
The consequences of a will contest must be carefully considered well in advance of filing a lawsuit against the estate. If you believe that a relative’s will contains a critical error or omission, ensure that you are afforded the best protection from uncertainty: call Scott Vicknair Law at 504-264-1057 today to speak to a legal professional to schedule your initial consultation.