Supreme Court adopts new rules for e-filing wills, proof of debt

As the push for mandatory electronic filing continues in Indiana, the Indiana Supreme Court has established new rules on how to handle original wills when an estate case is opened electronically.

In a series of rule amendments approved by Chief Justice Loretta Rush on Tuesday, the high court added language to Trial Rule 86 that proscribes a set of rules attorneys must follow if they are e-filing an estate case and want to attach an affidavit stating the electronic version is the same as the original. The rule amendment lists four requirements:

• The affiant must possess the original will, or the will must be deposited with the clerk of the court
• The affiant must file a true and accurate copy of the will
• Unless the will is deposited with the court, the affiant must retain the will until the estate is closed and the personal representative is released from liability, or until the time to file a will contest expires, whichever is later
• The affiant must file the original will upon order of the court or as otherwise directed by statute

The new Rule 86 guidance comes as many Indiana estate attorneys were facing questions on what to do with an original will in an e-filing case. Many of those attorneys have been advocating for the court to provide a statewide standard, as it did through Tuesday’s amendments.

Also included in the series of amendments was additional language in Rule 9.2 related to required proof of debt. Under the new language, claims arising from a written contract must include a copy of the contract. Further, if a claim is on an account, an affidavit of debt must be attached.

Additionally, if a plaintiff in a debt claim is not the original creditor and the debt is for personal, family or household reasons, the plaintiff must provide an affidavit of debt that includes a copy of the contract evidencing the debt, a chronological list of the names of all prior debt owners and an authenticated bill of sale or other transfer of ownership document. If the claim is based on credit card debt and no written evidence exists, then copies of documents generated when the credit card was used can be attached instead.  

Finally, the amended version of Rule 3.1 now requires the initiating party in a petition for guardianship to provide a completed Guardianship Information Sheet. The information on the sheet will be considered a confidential part of the court record that is excluded from public access under Administrative Rule 9.

Other changes included in the series of rule amendments include changing the name of the Division of State Court Administration to the Office of Judicial Administration and updating the title of executive director of the Division of State Court Administration to the chief administrative officer of the Office of Judicial Administration. Additionally, an amendment to Rule 79(I)(2) now allows a special judge to appoint a magistrate to preside over a case if the special judge is unavailable.

The full list of amended rules can be read here. The rule changes are effective Jan. 1, 2018, except for the proof of debt changes under Rule 9.2, which become effective Jan. 1, 2020.

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