A last will and testament contains instructions about who gets your belongings when you die and lets you choose a guardian for your minor children. A will is the first step to creating a solid estate plan, which often includes other documents like a power of attorney, advance directive, or living trust. You need a will in Illinois so you can name beneficiaries to receive your assets or else the court will determine your heirs for you, and they may not be who you wanted.
Live in another state? See our guide to making a will in your state.
Making a will in Illinois
There are a few different ways to make a will, but whichever method you choose, you must make sure that the will follows all the requirements for a valid will set by the state.
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Can I write my own will in Illinois?
Many people choose to create a will on their own, since an estate attorney can charge hundreds of dollars to prepare a simple will and even thousands for a more complex one. It is perfectly legal to make a will without a lawyer, like with an online will service that guides you through the process.
Handwritten wills are legal in Illinois only if they are witnessed in the same manner as a typewritten will.
Illinois will form
You may be able to find a free last will and testament form for Illinois online that you can fill out on your own. However, free wills are typically broad, one-size-fits-all documents that can leave more chances for your wishes to be challenged in court after you die. Additionally, these templates may not allow you to nominate a guardian or create a trust (testamentary trust) through the terms of your will.
Illinois will requirements
Anyone who is at least 18 years old can make a will in Illinois if they are of “sound mind and memory” (testamentary capacity).
The person making the will can appoint an estate executor in the will who will carry out its terms and handle their affairs. According to Illinois Probate Act, the executor must be at least 18 years old and a U.S. resident who has not been convicted of a felony. Non-state residents may be required to furnish an executor bond. People with gambling or substance abuse issues, or a mental illness or developmental disability who can’t manage the estate will be disqualified.
Illinois wills must be signed by the testator (will writer) and two credible witnesses. The witnesses can be beneficiaries named in the will, but unless there are two other disinterested witnesses, their inheritance may be voided.
Learn more about witnessing a will.
Does a have to be notarized in Illinois?
A will does not need to be notarized in order for it to be a valid legal document. Notarizing the signatures of the witnesses can be very useful though, since it helps prove the validity of the will once the testator has died. This is typically done by including a self-proving affidavit, which makes it so witnesses are not called by the court to give testimony during probate. (Illinois Probate Act 755 ILCS 5/6-4)
Where to file a will in Illinois
Before the testator’s death, a will may be filed with the court for safekeeping.
After the testator’s death, the will must be filed in the county where the decedent resided within 30 days after being made aware of their nomination as executor.
Dying without a will in Illinois
When someone dies without a will, they have died intestate. The Illinois court will determine your heirs based on state intestacy law. If you’re married, your spouse has a right to inherit at least some of your assets.
Learn more about what happens when you die without a will.
This is how much a surviving spouse would receive under a few different circumstances:
|If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:||Surviving spouse's share|
|Children from the surviving spouse or someone else||1/2 of the intestate estate|
When there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along to next of kin in the following order:
Children, or their children
Parents and siblings of the decedent (or their children) equally
Grandparents, or their descendants (aunts/uncles, cousins)
Descendants of great-grandparents
For someone to receive the estate, there must not be anyone left in the category above them. Keep in mind that if an inheritor is dead, then their share typically passes to their child by order of per stirpes.
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