Succession of Harrison

444 So. 2d 1191 (La. 1984)



A natural obligation, although it cannot be legally enforced, does have certain legal effects. La. Civ. Code Ann. art. 1759 provides: Although natural obligations can not be enforced by action, they have the following effects: (1) No suit will lie to recover what has been paid, or given in compliance with a natural obligation. (2) A natural obligation is a sufficient consideration for a new contract. 


After the decedent died, the foster son discovered a document hand written by someone other than the decedent but signed by him. The document bequeathed the foster son certain real property. The foster son convinced 13 of the decedent's heirs to sign a contract donating the property to him in fulfillment of the decedent's wishes. The foster son occupied the land for 20 years until the administrator obtained a court order to sell the land to satisfy succession debts. The foster son opposed the sale of the property. The district court held that the handwritten document was an invalid testamentary instrument and ordered that the property be sold. On appeal, the court of appeal reversed, holding that the 13 heirs had made a binding natural obligation contract under art. 1758(4). The case was appealed to the Supreme Court of Louisiana.


Was the transfer to the foster son valid?




The Court held that the invalid handwritten will was in effect a donation by the decedent to the foster son. Because it failed to meet the rigorous statutory requirements for a testamentary instrument, the handwritten document was defective for want of form only. The natural obligation contract transferred to the foster son the property interests of the 13 heirs who signed it and was enforceable under art. 1759.

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