If you live in Louisiana, you should ALWAYS have a Louisiana lawyer prepare your estate planning documents, especially your will. In Louisiana, we have things that some states don’t, such as community property and forced heirship.
Notaries are NOT lawyers. They cannot advise the signer of a will in any way regarding legal advice. This is considered the unauthorized practice of law. A notary signature, seal and stamp is only proof of the validity of the signatures of the persons who signed the document. A notary’s signature does not mean that the document is valid or is in appropriate legal format. Although notaries are required to go through training before their commission is issued, sometimes notaries do place their signatures on documents which are not prepared appropriately. Many notaries will place a disclaimer on the document such as “document not examined by notary” or “notarization as to signatures only.
Websites like legal zoom have disclaimers under their FAQ’s stating “We are not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney at law.” Here is a summary of LegalZoom’s disclaimer: 1) the employees of LegalZoom are not acting as your attorney 2) their documents are not a substitute for the advice of an attorney 3) they do not review your answers for legal sufficiency, draw legal conclusions, provide legal advice or apply the law to the facts of your particular situation, and 4) the legal information on LegalZoom’s website is not guaranteed to be correct, complete, or up-to-date. I don’t know about you but that last one troubles me the most. People depend on these legal documents to protect them and their family especially when it comes to planning their estates. But the problem with LegalZoom’s estate planning kits is that they give a false sense of security. People create documents using LegalZoom believing that all their needs in estate planning are addressed without realizing that they are not valid, especially in Louisiana. Most legal zoom wills that we have seen end up costing the client more money than had they come to our office and had us draft their website in the first place.
An invalid will not only doesn’t accomplish the deceased wishes, it ends up costing more for the family members of the deceased to administer the estate. To read about a will that had problems, see our article on “Has Your Will Been Notarized Properly?” https://miramonlaw.com/2019/04/01/has-your-will-been-notarized-properly/ To avoid these problems, call our office and schedule an appointment with a Louisiana lawyer today.