Making a Will in Indiana

How to write a will in Indiana, and what can happen if you don't have one.

Updated by , Attorney · University of Arkansas School of Law

Steps to Create a Will in Indiana

Here's a quick checklist for making a will in Indiana:

  1. Decide what property to include in your will.
  2. Decide who will inherit your property.
  3. Choose an executor to handle your estate.
  4. Choose a guardian for your children.
  5. Choose someone to manage children's property.
  6. Make your will.
  7. Sign your will in front of witnesses.
  8. Store your will safely.

Why Should I Make 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 Don't Have 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 Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or you have especially complicated goals, you should talk with an attorney. See Do I Need an Attorney to Make My Estate Plan?

What Are the Requirements for Making a Will in Indiana?

To make a will in Indiana, you must be of sound mind and:

  • at least 18 years or older
  • younger than 18 and a member of the armed forces, or
  • a member of the merchant marines of the United States or its allies.

Ind. Code Ann. § 29-1-5-1.

Your will must usually be in writing. Ind. Code Ann. § 29-1-5-1. Indiana does recognize nuncupative (oral) wills but they are limited in use and it's usually best to avoid them, if possible. Ind. Code Ann. § 29-1-5-4. Your will ceremony can be videotaped, but you must still have your will in writing. Ind. Code Ann. § 29-1-5-3.2. Under Indiana law, "in writing" includes an electronic version of a will. (See "Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?," below.) Indiana does not permit holographic (handwritten) wills.

How Do You Sign an Indiana Will?

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.

Neither witness should be a beneficiary of the will. Witnesses who stand to inherit under the will risk forfeiting gifts that the will leaves to them. Ind. Code Ann. § 29-1-5-2.

Indiana requires the "actual presence" of the witnesses, even if the will maker is making an electronic will. Ind. Code Ann. § 29-1-21-4.

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 in Indiana, 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. Ind. Code Ann. § 29-1-5-3.1.

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 Quicken WillMaker & Trust 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).

Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?

Indiana is one of a handful of states that technically allows electronic wills (e-wills). The requirements for making a valid e-will can be elaborate, and the concept is still fairly new. As a result, e-wills are still not commonplace. For more details on Indiana's specific approach to e-wills, see What Is an Electronic Will?

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.

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