How to make a will in Illinois

A guide to Illinois probate laws.


Published June 15, 2020

infoEditorial Disclosure

Who can write a will in Illinois?

Anyone at least 18 years old of “sound mind and memory” can write a will in Illinois.

What are the requirements for witnessing a will in Illinois?

Every will must be signed by two “credible witnesses.”


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Can witnesses be beneficiaries of the will in Illinois?

Yes, but unless there are two other disinterested witnesses the inheritance may be void.

What are the requirements for choosing an executor in Illinois?

  • Age of executor: 18 years old

  • U.S. resident who has not been convicted of felony

  • Must be of sound mind; cannot be a person with mental illness or developmental disability who cannot manage the estate

  • People with gambling or substance abuse issues may be disqualified

  • Non-state residents may be required to furnish an executor bond

Can you create a holographic will in Illinois?

Illinois does not explicitly forbid handwritten wills (called “holographic wills” when not signed by witnesses). A handwritten will may be permitted, but it must be signed and witnessed properly.

Is Illinois a community property state?

No, Illinois is not a community property state.

In a community property state, each spouse has an equal share of property acquired during the marriage. Property acquired before the marriage is considered separate property.

Laws of intestacy in Illinois

In Illinois, when there is no will, the court will determine who receives the deceased's assets and property based on the laws of intestate succession. (It’s a scary thought: having the courts decide what happens to your things. That’s why we made it easy to create a will. Download the Policygenius app to get started.)

This is how much a surviving spouse receives in a few different circumstances:

If the decedent is survived by a spouse and:Surviving spouse's share
No childrenEverything
Children from the surviving spouse or someone else1/2 of the intestate estate

When there is no surviving spouse, then the intestate estate will pass along 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.

Filing the will in Illinois

Before the testator’s death, a will may be filed with the court for safekeeping. After the testator’s death, the executor must file the will in the county where the decedent resided within 30 days after being made aware of their nomination as executor.

Estate administration without probate in Illinois

In Illinois, estates can be administered without court procedure using a small estate affidavit whether or not the decedent had a will when:

  • The gross value of personal property is less than $100,000

  • There is no real property

  • All funeral expenses and debts have been paid or will be paid

Don’t live in Illinois? Learn how to make a will in your state.

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Personal Finance Editor

Elissa Suh

Personal Finance Editor

Elissa Suh is a personal finance editor at Policygenius in New York City. She has researched and written extensively about finance and insurance since 2019, with an emphasis in esate planning and mortgages. Her writing has been cited by MarketWatch, CNBC, and Betterment.

Elissa has a B.A. in Film Studies from Barnard College.

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