A list of many things to consider when drafting a client’s testament
(and which the client may not do well, or know about, on their own):
1. CLIENT WISHES ARE CLEAR
It’s very important that what the Client wants to happen after death is clear and unambiguous. Attorneys are skilled at using precise words. Estate planning attorneys have experience of recognizing certain defects and traps to avoid. At OPL, we use our experience and research to use precise words, words with plain meanings and simple sentence structures, to ensure the donations and directives will be clearly understood, which only minimizes drama after death. That’s always a good thing!
2. PROPERTY DESCRIPTIONS
Just as the actions to be taken should be clear, the objects to be given should also be clearly described. We consider all the many little details and add details to ensure no one is confused over what item or object is being donated. Is this person donating a camera or a Camry?! (Read the other companion article about eight tips when handwriting your own Will).
3. ALL PORTIONS SHOULD AGREE
All portions of the document should be consistent with each other so as not to be confusing. Confusing clauses, for some family members, are just the opportunities they need to create drama and litigation. Looking at all the clauses entirely as a whole and based on years of research and experience minimize the chances of defects.
4. NO JARGON
5. EXTRAS, COMPREHENSIVE
The kind of testament we draft for clients is comprehensive– it covers many relevant and helpful additions, things a lay person would not be expected to easily know about without a lot of research or legal drafting experience. For example, we add clauses that address a.) what could happen if some descendant contests the document’s validity; b.) who else will receive a gift if the initial person dies early and cannot; c.) what kind of estate administration can be made available, if need be; d.) what powers and authority are granted, or restricted, to an executor; e.) funeral instructions; f.) important personal statements to heirs if the client has been estranged from them; and many others.
6. PAGES TIE TOGETHER
7. VENDOR FRIENDLY
8. IT’S SELF-PROVING
Of the currently two valid types of Louisiana testaments, one has a front-end cost, the other, a back-end cost. The handwritten form has a cost on the back-end, after death, because it must be proved to the Court satisfaction that its really a document you created and signed (i.e., probated). The other Notarial form costs to create it but saves money after death because it will not need to be proved as authentic based on the level of security– the notary public’s signature along with the two witnesses (including yours of course), make the document self-proving. This process of authentication helps prevent fraud. So, although a handwritten form does not cost much to create, it does cost something to “prove.” Whereas the Notarial form costs something to create, it does not need to be “proved” and so you just present it to the Court and instruct the Court to simply accept it and put it into effect.