Creating a legal will in any state depends on meeting certain statutory requirements. You don’t need a lawyer to draft one for you in Indiana, but it might be helpful to at least take your finished copy to an attorney for review. However, before you get to this point, there are a few legal guidelines that you should be able to follow easily.
Meet the Basic Requirements
Indiana law requires that you be of sound mind to make a will and you must be at least 18 years old unless you’re in the U.S. military or the merchant marine of the United States or one of its allies. Your will must usually be in writing; Indiana’s statutes don’t address holographic, or handwritten, wills one way or the other. If you want to be sure that the court honors your wishes, play it safe and print your will. You can also purchase and use a will form specific to Indiana law.
Line Up Your Witnesses
Like most states, Indiana requires that at least two people watch you sign your will and that they sign it themselves after you’ve done so. All of you must sign in the presence of one another. Your witnesses must be competent, meaning they understand what they’re doing, what you’re doing and that they can testify to it in court if need be. They can’t be beneficiaries who stand to inherit under the terms of your will. If they are, your bequests to them become void and they can only inherit what they would have received if you had died without a will. However, your executor can serve as a witness, as can any guardian you name to care for your children after your death. You can have your will notarized if you wish, but Indiana law doesn’t require it.
Consider a Self-Proving Affidavit
Many states recognize a self-proving affidavit, which is a document you attach to your will that is signed by you and your witnesses and also notarized. This type of affidavit is a sworn oath that your witnesses did indeed watch you sign your will and that they also signed it themselves. A self-proving affidavit avoids the necessity of your witnesses having to appear in court after your death to testify to this information. In Indiana, a simple self-proving clause at the end of your will suffices, so you don’t have to draw up a separate document. Indiana statutes provide specific wording that you can include in your will, but the will is still legal if you don’t include this language. However, doing so can save your witnesses some trouble after your death. Indiana law also allows you to videotape your will signing. You can’t commit your will itself to a video, but you can use a recording to memorialize the signing so that it’s apparent that you were of sound mind and that you did everything correctly. If you’re worried about a will contest, you can also use the video to state why you wrote your will the way that you did.
You Can Make a Deathbed Will
If you arrive at a circumstance in your life whereby you never got around to making a will but you know your death is imminent, Indiana law recognizes nuncupative wills. These oral wills, sometimes called deathbed wills, are only valid if you do indeed die as a result of the circumstances that made you want to speak your wishes to witnesses. You’ll need two disinterested witnesses that aren't beneficiaries of any property that passes under the will. They have 30 days to write down what you said and six months after your death to submit the document to the court for probate. Unless you’re in the military, you can only bequeath $1,000 in property this way. However, if you’re in the armed forces and you’re on active duty in wartime, you can leave up to $10,000 in property.
Read More: How to Make Your Will Legal in Indiana
Beverly Bird is a practicing paralegal who has been writing professionally on legal subjects for over 30 years. She specializes in family law and estate law and has mediated family custody issues.