Making a Will in Indiana

How to make a will in Indiana and what can happen if you don't.

What Can I do With an Indiana Will?

A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:

  • leave your property to people or organizations
  • name a personal guardian to care for your minor children
  • name a trusted person to manage property you leave to minor children, and
  • name an executor, the person who makes sure that the terms of your will are carried out.

What Happens if I Die Without a Will?

In Indiana, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Indiana's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, and nephews. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.

Do I Need a Lawyer to Make a Will in Indiana?

No. You can make your own will in Indiana, using Nolo's do-it-yourself will software or online will programs. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.

What Are the Requirements for Signing a Will in Indiana?

To finalize your will in Indiana:

  • you must sign your will in front of two witnesses or acknowledge that you already signed it,
  • you must tell your witnesses it is your will, and
  • your witnesses must sign your will in front of you and each other. (Ind. Code Ann. § § 29-1-5-3.)

It's best to have "disinterested witnesses" who don't get anything in your will act as your witnesses. An interested witness who does get something in your will can forfeit this gift by acting as your witness. (Ind. Code Ann. § § 29-1-5-2.)

Do I Need to Have My Will Notarized?

No, in Indiana, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.

However, Indiana allows you to make your will "self-proving." A self-proving will speeds up probate because the court can accept the will without contacting the witnesses who signed it.

To make your will self-proving, you and your witnesses sign a document that says the following:

  • you met the requirements listed above to finalize your will
  • you and your witnesses signed the will voluntarily
  • you appeared to be of sound mind, and
  • that to the best knowledge of the witnesses, you are at least 18 years old or in the armed forces.

This language can be included in the will itself, or you can put it in a separate document that you attach to your will.

Most states that let you use this type of document require you and your witnesses to sign it in front of a notary, but you don't have to do that in Indiana.

Should I Use My Will to Name an Executor?

Yes. In Indiana, you can use your will to name an executor who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's will software and online will produces a letter to your executor that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.

Can I Revoke or Change My Will?

In Indiana, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by taking any of the following actions:

  • you destroy or mutilate your will with the intent to revoke it,
  • you order someone else to destroy or mutilate your will in front of you, or
  • you make a new will. (Ind. Code Ann. § § 29-1-5-6.)

If you need to make changes to your will, it’s best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).

Where Can I Find Indiana’s Laws About Making Wills?

You can find Indiana’s laws about making wills here: Indiana Code Annotated Title 29 Probate Article 1 Probate Code Chapter 1 General Provisions.

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