January 11, 2019
It has come to the attention of the LNA’s Board of Directors that there is a case pending before the Louisiana Supreme Court of great interest to Louisiana notaries public. In February of 2016, the Succession of Sandra Dale was opened in the 20th Judicial District Court for the Parish of East Feliciana. This proceeding probated Ms. Dale’s Last Will and Testament, which was executed in 2014. Ms. Dale’s succession proceeded without issue, and her sole legatee, one of her three children, was put into possession of her entire estate. In 2017, Ms. Dale’s other two children petitioned the Court to re-open their late mother’s succession, as they were in possession of a later Last Will and Testament, executed in 2016, that revoked all prior wills and left all of her property to her three children equally.
The 20th Judicial District Court denied the petition to re-open Ms. Dale’s succession, and found that the 2016 will was invalid. The Court found that the will was not in proper form and also could not stand alone as an authentic act revoking all prior wills. The nullity of Ms. Dale’s 2016 will, and the determination of its nullity, was based upon a stamp applied to the will by the notary who passed the act. This stamp read as follows: “[t]he notary has neither prepared nor read this document and is solely attesting to the authenticity of the signatures affixed hereto.” The Court found that this stamp made it unclear whether or not the testator declared before the notary and two witness that the document was her last will and testament and nullified the declaration that the will was executed before the notary and two witnesses. The Court further determined that, because of these deviations, Ms. Dale’s 2016 will did not comply with Louisiana Civil Code Article 1577.
The case was appealed to the First Circuit Court of Appeal for the State of Louisiana, which affirmed the trial court’s decision. A copy of the First Circuit’s Opinion issued September 24, 2018 can be accessed by clicking the link below. The case has been appealed further to the Louisiana Supreme Court, but no decision has been rendered by that court as of yet.
The LNA cautions its members from using any variation of the stamp described in this case on Last Wills and Testaments pending a final ruling from the Louisiana Supreme Court and encourages its members to read the Opinion of the First Circuit Court of Appeal.
Click here to view the First Circuit’s Opinion.