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Q: What happens if a person executes a will but doesn’t get it witnessed? What if it is notarized?

A: In order for a will to be valid under Indiana law, it has to be both signed and witnessed by two individuals who are preferably disinterested (not family members or included in the will). In the situation you describe, the notary public might be construed as one witness. However, one witness isn’t enough.

In some states, an un-witnessed will that is written wholly in the creator’s handwriting can be valid. That sort of will is known as a holographic will. Unfortunately Indiana isn’t one of the states that recognize holographic wills.

The moral of the story is if you create a will, make sure that it is signed by the maker and witnessed by two disinterested witnesses.

Q: How many copies of a will should a person sign?

A: This is one of the great debates among attorneys: how many original wills should a there be? Personally, I’m of the opinion that a person should only execute one will. However, I know of some really good attorneys that have their clients execute more than one original will and retain one copy in their file.

I have started scanning wills after they are signed, which I suppose some people would argue is another original since most of Indiana has gone to paperless filing. However, I still think that only one will should be signed.

Q: How much will an estate plan cost?

A: I have no idea because each person’s estate plan is different and each attorney has his or her own price structure. Generally speaking, the more experienced attorneys will cost you more than a less experienced attorney. Obviously the amount of time that is required to prepare the plan will also affect the cost.

Although I can’t tell you what you should pay, you can price shop. Ask up front what the anticipated cost is going to be and get another “estimate” if it seems too high. Legal services are just that; services.

Hiring an attorney is a very personal decision and money shouldn’t be the sole consideration but it should be one of them.

Christopher W. Yugo is an attorney in Crown Point. Chris’ Estate Planning Article appears online every Sunday at www.nwi.com. Address questions to Chris in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN 46321 or to Chrisyugolaw@gmail.com. Chris’ information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant, or estate-planning specialist.

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