Does a suspended lawyer’s notarization of a will make the will invalid?
In another interesting case decided last month, a lawyer suspended from the practice of law prepared and notarized a will that was challenged by a disgruntled daughter. The challenge was based on the fact that Louisiana law basically states that when a lawyer who is also a notary is disbarred or suspended from the practice of law, then they also lose their commission as a notary.The daughter argued that since a notarial testament must be signed in the presence of a notary, and at the time the will was signed the notary had lost her commission, then the will had to be invalid.
The court first noted that the lawyer “…had become ineligible to practice law for failure to attend requisite continuing education courses.” The court then noted that a lawyer who is “disbarred or suspended from the practice of law due to charges filed by the Committee on Professional responsibility . . . shall not be qualified or eligible nor shall he exercise any functions as a notary public as long as he remains disbarred or suspended . . LSA- R.S. 35: 14.”
It was undisputed that the lawyer was under suspension at the time the will was executed. However, the trial court felt that the daughter had introduced no proof that the suspension was the result of any charges being filed by the Committee on Professional Responsibility. In other words, without saying so, the court seems to have felt that the suspension was based on a technicality that had nothing to do with the lawyer’s fitness to practice law. Absent such proof, the will was valid. The ruling was upheld on appeal.