A last will and testament is a legal document that describes your property and possession (also known as your “estate”) and instructs where and who gets what in the event you die. It is an important document that can prevent a lot of grief and hassle among your loved ones and beneficiaries upon your death. There will be at least one executor in your will — appointed by you. This executor is responsible for overseeing your estate to its conclusion. The will must be adhered to exactly as outlined. Choosing your executor will be the result of your personal preference. Choosing a lawyer to help you with the last will and testament will be the result of your personal preference, too.
At Guy DiMartino Law, we seek to uphold our clients’ interests in accordance with the law. We help you make your will, one that is clear and detailed — because we know the less ambiguity in a will, the less potential there is for legal issues later. Contact our office to learn more about how we can help you make your will in Indiana. We offer a free initial consultation to discuss what your needs are and what we offer. But first, here’s an overview of last wills and testaments in Indiana.
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A LAST WILL & TESTAMENT AND A LIVING WILL IN INDIANA?
A last will and testament is a will that outlines your property and assets and where and how they will be distributed upon your death. The last will and testament’s legal authority starts when you die.
A living will is also a legal document that outlines your wishes but only with regard to end of life care or medical treatment matters. As such, a living will is often referred to as an advance directive, which directs your wishes to a physician. This type of will is actionable while you are alive.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO HAVE A WILL IN INDIANA?
The purpose of a last will & testament is manifold, and examples include but are not limited to the following:
- It ensures whomever you want to receive your possessions receives them upon your death.
- It can appoint a legal guardian for any minor children (under the age of 18) upon your death.
- It appoints a specific person of your choosing to manage your estate upon your death.
- It can assign any charitable donations to charities of your choosing.
- It can outline specific funeral, burial, or cremation requests you may have.
- It can do many other things in accordance with your wishes and the law.
As you can see, a will can be a very important legal tool. To be valid, however, your will must adhere to the laws of the state in which it was written or else you could risk a lengthy probate process for your family and other loved ones whom you named as beneficiaries.
CAN YOU MAKE CHANGES TO A WILL IN INDIANA?
You can make changes to either your last will & testament or your living will whenever you require changes to be made. You have two basic options to make those changes:
- If the modifications you want are minor, you can add a codicil to an existing will; or
- If the changes are more extensive, you can revoke the old will and create a new one.
- The problem with a codicil is that it creates space for potential problems down the road. The codicil is an “addition” to the original will and if it is lost or misconstrued in any way, then someone may find reason to dispute it.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU DON’T HAVE A WILL IN INDIANA?
If you die in Indiana without a will, then Indiana’s intestacy laws are activated. This means if you are survived by:
a spouse and/or dependent children, half of your estate goes to your spouse and the other half goes to the children;
a spouse only, then the spouse receives all the estate;
children only, then the children inherit the estate;
parents only, then each parent if living receives an equal share of your estate;
no parents, no spouse, and no children, your siblings receive the estate; or
no family, then the state receives your estate.
The above is rather simplified. Who gets what share of the estate can become tricky and contentious. If you do not like the way the statute divides your assets or do not want family and other loved ones arguing over your estate, then you must make sure you have a will in place.