Computer keyword with a DIY button for building your own will

No matter how old you are or the kind of relationship you had with your parent, you face a lot of uncertainty after your parent dies. Because your family has changed, you’ll begin to navigate a new normal that includes settling your parent’s estate and distributing property according to your parent’s estate plan.

However, this critical step of settling your parent’s estate can be complicated if there is any confusion about your parent’s will. You could face challenging litigation issues regarding your parent’s property if your parent’s estate plan was created without a Louisiana estate planning lawyer.  

Why Your Parent Created a Will Without an Attorney

People create wills and other estate planning documents without the advice of estate planning lawyers for various reasons. For example, some people decide to create a do it yourself (DIY) estate plan because they:

  • Don’t want to take the time to find and meet with a lawyer.
  • Have a negative opinion about lawyers.
  • Think it will cost too much money to work with a lawyer.

Your parent may have chosen any of these reasons to create a DIY will, leaving you with an estate planning document that may be invalid or unenforceable. Estate planning doesn’t have to take a lot of time or cost a lot of money, and estate planning lawyers work hard to protect their clients’ interests.

How Your Parent Created a Will Without a Lawyer

Your parent may have chosen to:

  • Use an online template. There are many Last Will and Testament templates online. Many of them are written in legalese and sound like good legal documents. However, fill-in-the-blank templates can’t predict all of your parent’s estate planning needs and may not comply with Louisiana law.
  • Consult books, software, or websites to type and execute a notarial will.  Your parent may have decided to write a will from scratch after consulting books, websites, or other resources. These types of wills must be created and executed according to Louisiana law. Additionally, there is a lot of room for error. Your parent may have inadvertently created confusion or forgotten about property or heirs.
  • Create an olographic will. Your parent may have handwritten a will. Olographic wills have different execution requirements than notarial wills, but they must comply with Louisiana law. Olographic wills must be entirely handwritten, dated, and signed at the end of the document. Additionally, the same risk of confusion and forgotten property or heirs exists as it does for other DIY wills.

Although your mother or father thought they were protecting the family by creating a will, they likely didn’t understand the potential problems their DIY could create for you, your siblings, and other heirs.

Potential Problems With Wills Created Without a Lawyer

Some of the possible succession problems that may develop if a decedent created their own will include:

  • Vague language. The language may have seemed specific to your parent, but there may be confusion now that it is time to divide the property.
  • Leaving money to pets. It’s possible that your parent loved their pet and wanted to make sure the pet was cared for after their death. However, pets can’t inherit money. There are other ways to make sure that pets are cared for, but it is too late to advise your parent of those options.
  • Putting conditions on an heir’s inheritance. Conditions can create problems whether they are placed on an heir or on the property the heir inherits.
  • Failing to name a backup executor or guardian if your parent’s first choice can’t serve in the role. Without a backup executor or guardian, the court will have to decide who will administer your estate or care for your children.
  • Failing to coordinate beneficiaries. Your parent may attempt to leave a 401(k) or life insurance policy to someone in their will, but the retirement account or life insurance policy may name another beneficiary.
  • Leaving property to minor children. Children may benefit from the property before they turn 18, but they cannot own it outright. Typically, property is left in a trust for the benefit of minor children until they reach the age of majority.

An experienced Louisiana estate litigation lawyer will thoroughly review all of your parent’s estate planning documents to determine if any of these problems exist. Then, your attorney can advise you of your legal options.

How Property Passes If Your Parent’s DIY Will Is Invalid

If a Louisiana court finds that your parent’s will was not created or executed according to Louisiana law or the law of the state in which it was created, your parent’s property will pass according to the Louisiana intestacy laws.

Generally, this means:

  • Separate property will go first to a decedent’s children. You and your siblings will inherit any property that is not community property.
  • Community property will be co-owned. You and your siblings will co-own property with your parent’s surviving spouse if your parent was married at the time of death.

These rules may seem simple, but in some situations, the distribution of property through the laws of intestacy can be complex and contested.

Don’t Spend Time Wondering What Will Happen During Succession

You deserve to have all of your questions answered and your rights protected. If your mother or father created their own will and you have questions or anticipate litigation, we encourage you to gather all of your parent’s estate planning documents, and schedule a meeting with an experienced New Orleans estate litigation lawyer. The experienced estate litigators at Scott Vicknair, LLC help hundreds of Louisiana heirs resolve estate disputes each year. Let us help you resolve the dispute as efficiently as possible. Contact us today to get started.

 

Brad Scott
Experienced estate planning, estate litigation and Louisiana succession attorney.