Indiana Legal Criteria for a Will

by A.L. Kennedy

Indiana law requires that a will meet certain legal requirements before the Indiana courts will consider it valid. Many of these requirements, such as requiring that the testator, or will maker, be mentally competent to make a will and that the will be signed, are also required by other states, according to FindLaw. It is always wise to consult a qualified attorney when preparing a will in Indiana or any other state.

Age and Capacity

Indiana law requires a person making a will to be at least 18 years old and to be "of sound mind," according to Indiana Statute 29-1-5-1. The statute also states that people who are younger than 18 may make a valid will if they are of sound mind and are members of the armed forces or merchant marines of "the United States, or its allies."

Format

Indiana law requires that all wills be in writing, unless they are nuncupative wills, according to Indiana Code 29-1-5-2. A nuncupative will, also known as an "oral will," is a will made by speaking rather than writing, according to USLegal. Indiana law restricts nuncupative wills to people who are in imminent danger of death and who actually die. Only personal property may be left to beneficiaries under an Indiana nuncupative will, and the value of the property cannot be more than $1,000, or $10,000 if the person making the will is a member of the armed forces, according to Indiana Code 29-1-5-4. A nuncupative will must be put in writing within 30 days of the testator's death.

Witnesses

To be valid in Indiana, a will must be witnessed by two competent adults, according to Indiana Code 29-1-5-2. If a witness becomes incompetent after witnessing the will, he is still a valid witness as long as he was competent at the time he served as a witness. An "interested witness," or one who receives something under the will, will not receive her share if her testimony is needed to prove the will's validity, according to Indiana Code 29-1-5-2(c). However, if the witness is someone who would have received a share of the estate even if there had been no will, she will receive whatever that share would have been.

Signatures

To be valid under Indiana law, a will must be signed. Indiana Code 29-1-5-3 sets out the rules for signatures on wills. The person making the will must sign the will. At least two witnesses must also sign the will, acknowledging that they saw the testator or someone acting on the testator's behalf sign the will and that they know it is the testator's will, according to Indiana Code 29-1-5-3(b). Additional witnesses are allowed but are not necessary.

Applicable Law

Indiana probate courts will consider a will to be valid if it complies with the law in effect when the will was made, according to Indiana Code 29-1-5-5. The law in effect can be the law of Indiana, the law of the place where the will was signed by the person who made it, or the law of the testator's domicile either when he or she signed the will or when he or she died, according to Indiana Code 29-1-5-5(1), (2) and (3). When in doubt, Indiana courts should favor the interpretation of events that lets the will stand, according to Indiana Code 29-1-5-3(e).