On October 22, 2019, Gibson Law Partners LLC was successful in litigating a succession case in the Louisiana Supreme Court concerning the revocation of a previous testament and the validity of that document.
The facts of the case
The case revolved around the succession of Edward Robin, who had a total of 10 children, including five from his first marriage to his wife Doris, three who his and his second wife Thaslia, and two other children. In his first notarial testament in the fall of 2004, he bequeathed all of his hunting equipment and gun collection to his son Lee, and the balance of the estate to be split between sons Don and Brad. None of the other seven children were included in this original document. The document also listed Brad and Don as co-executors of the estate.
What became the main question of the case was not the original testament, but the “Revocation of any and all prior will and codicils,” which was signed by Edward and notarized by notary Villarrubia, the same notary of his 2004 testament. The testament was signed in front of two witnesses but failed to have a date on it and only consisted of one simple sentence. “I, EDWARD JOHN ROBIN, SR., revoke any and all prior Wills and Codicils that I may have made as pursuant to La. Civ. Code Ann. Art. 1607.”
Edward Robin’s Death
Edward Robin died in August of 2017, and because of the recent revocation was said to have died intestate, meaning he had no will or testament to follow after his death. His daughter Chantel was then appointed as the administratrix in January of 2018, to execute his estate. Shortly after she was named, a petition was filed by her bother Brad to remove her as the administratrix, claiming that his father did not die without a will in place. He referred to the 2004 testament in his request for an injunction.
Brad Robin’s case
While Brad Robin noted recognition of the revocation, he claimed that the revocation had not been properly dated by the notary, which failed to satisfy the authentic act requirement of La. C.C. art. 1607. Along with his petition, he provided an undated copy of the revocation, along with an affidavit of one of the witnesses present that said that the original revocation did not have a date and that the date was added at a later time. He further claimed that there needed to be extrinsic evidence as to when the revocation was signed so that it could be proved that it was revoking the 2004 testament.
The Supreme Court upholds the revocation
After the revocation was deemed invalid in the lower courts, the case finally made its way to the Supreme Court of Louisiana, where the court ruled that even though the revocation lacked a date, it is still considered a valid and authentic act. The Court went on to further state that extrinsic evidence regarding the date on which the revocation was written did not cause the act of revocation to be negated. Since the extrinsic evidence established that the revocation occurred after the 2004 testament, the revocation should stand.
The evidence that swayed the case
After reviewing the evidence, the Supreme Court felt confident in the establishment of the fact that the revocation occurred after the original testament. They were presented with:
- A copy of the original undated act of revocation along with a copy of the act dated January 14, 2016.
- The fact that La. C.C. art 1833 does not require an authentic act to be dated to be considered valid and not other law was found saying that the date could not be added later if the witnesses and notary attested to when the statement occurred.
- The testimony of a witness to the document who testified that he was asked to go with Robin to the notary office as a witness in 2016 when the document was said to have been executed.
How can the revocations of testaments occur?
When reviewing the case, the court touched on the varying ways that one can legally revoke a testament which include:
- Physically destroying the testament or ordering someone to do so.
- Declaring the revocation in the form of an authentic act.
- Identifying and clearly revoking the testament in writing by writing it in their own handwriting and signing it.
What is considered an authentic act?
For an act to be considered authentic it will need to be written and executed in the presence of a notary public and two witnesses and be signed by all. Since Robin’s revocation was witnessed both by a notary and two witnesses, it falls under the classification of an authentic act, even if it failed to be dated until later. Failure to date the revocation did not make it inauthentic, nor did it invalidate it.
After proving that the revocation was both authentic and within the proper procedures of revocation, even without being dated, the Supreme Court upheld the Edward Robin’s revocation.