While there’s little doubt that a will is one of the basic building blocks in an estate plan, few people are aware that “last wills and testaments” come in more than one form. 
“The will that most people think of, called a simple will, is a legal documents that applies to only one person,” explains author Linda C. Asher in Your Indiana Wills, Trusts, & Estates.  To be legal, every will, she adds, need to include a number of elements:

  • Beneficiary
  • Executor
  • Clauses, which might include a survival clauses, a guardianship clause, giving clauses about real and personal property, a residuary clause, an appointment clause.

In discussing wills with our estate planning clients at Geyer law, we explain some of the tasks accomplished through a will, which, in addition to leaving assets to specified beneficiaries, include:

  • Paying debts, including credit card balances, personal loans, mortgage payments, final bills and funeral expenses
  • Designating a guardian for minor or incompetent children
  • Naming a conservator to handle the inheritance of minors or incompetents
  • Naming an executor to carry out all the terms of the will

Linda Asher explains that there are several “hows” to a will:

1.  Holographic wills
These are handwritten document signed by you but not witnessed by anyone else. – Indiana does not recognize holographic wills.

2.  Nuncupative will (oral or spoken wills)
Noncupative wills are used if someone is on his or her deathbed and there is only personal property of little or no value.  Indiana does recognize nuncupative wills under those circumstances, Asher points out.

3.  Video wills.
Video wills will probably not be recognized as valid wills. However a video will could be prepared in conjunction with a written will. The Indiana Probate Court, Asher explains, could use the video as evidence of a testator’s intentions and the mental state of a testator by the Indiana Probate Court. Even if not legally valid for settling an estate, recording messages to loved ones might be something you want to do, the author adds.

– by Kimberly Lewis of Rebecca W. Geyer & Associates