Now You See It – Now You Don’t: The Impact of Form on Substance

Non-lawyers often assume that they can sign a document requiring notarization and then have another person bring it to their lawyer later to notarize the signature. This practice is strictly forbidden by Louisiana law. In Eschete v. Eschete, 2012 CA 2059, Louisiana First Circuit Court of Appeal, a husband was able to void his donation to his wife of his interest in the family home because the notary and witnesses were not in the room when he signed it. The act of donation was signed at Ms. Eschete’s lawyer’s office. Mr. Eschete signed it in the presence of a secretary. However, the notary and the other witness, although they were nearby in other rooms, were not physically present in the room where the donation was signed by Mr. Eschete. No one disputed that eventually all of the necessary signatures wound up on the document. Mr. Eschete did not deny that he had signed it. The issue was strictly whether the act of donation was in “authentic form”. If it was, it was binding on Mr. Eschete. If it was not, Mr. Eschete was entitled to have it nullified. After hearing the testimony, the trial judge found that the notary and one of the witnesses had not actually seen Mr. Eschete sign the donation. He granted Mr. Eschete’s petition and set the donation aside. Litigants in domestic proceedings involving community property are often called upon to sign “authentic acts”. You should be aware that the notary and the two witnesses must see your signature being affixed to the document. The inconvenience of waiting until all of the necessary signatories are present before the document is executed is small compared to the possible consequences if you do not comply with the law regarding authentic acts.