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Kevin O'Flaherty

Wondering about the essentials for a valid will in Illinois? This article breaks down everything from the legal requirements to common pitfalls. In Illinois, anyone over 18 with clear mental faculties can create a will, but it must be witnessed by two impartial individuals to hold up in court. We also cover the legality of handwritten and electronically created wills, and why drafting a will without legal assistance could lead to unintended consequences. Learn whether a will crafted in another state is valid here and why professional legal help is not just helpful, but crucial in ensuring your assets are distributed exactly as you wish.

Key Takeaways

  • A valid will in Illinois requires the testator to be 18+ with mental capacity and two non-beneficiary witnesses.
  • Illinois accepts typed, handwritten, and electronic wills, each with specific validity requirements for probate.
  • Common drafting errors, like vague language or DIY without legal help, can compromise a will's enforceability and asset distribution.

Key Components of a Valid Illinois Will

An estate planning attorney knows that assembling a last will and testament in Illinois is like following a strict recipe. Any missing component could result in the entire endeavor failing. A valid will ensure your voice still guides the allocation of your assets after you’re gone, with specific requirements for legal validity: testators must be of appropriate age, possess sound mental capacity, and sign their will before disinterested witnesses.

Age Requirement

In Illinois, the significance of age cannot be overstated when it comes to drafting a legitimate testament for one’s worldly belongings. To craft a valid will, you must have surpassed your eighteenth birthday. This milestone denotes not only the passage of years, but also an entrance into legal accountability. The requirement that one must be at least 18 ensures that those deciding on the fate of their estate and arranging for any minor or dependent children are presumed to possess sufficient maturity and judgment necessary for such weighty decisions.

Mental Capacity

In the Land of Lincoln, to create a valid last will and testament, one must possess testamentary capacity, which hinges on being in sound mind and memory. This requires a complete understanding of the property’s extent and nature as well as comprehension regarding the significance of forming a last will. Such mental clarity serves as an essential guardrail that confirms your directives within the will stem from unclouded reasoning and true volition.

Witness Requirements

In Illinois, transforming a personal declaration into a legal document requires the presence of witnesses. To ensure your will is legally recognized, it must be observed and signed by two trustworthy individuals who stand to gain nothing from the will themselves. This witnessing process serves as confirmation that you voluntarily and properly executed the signing in their view. Neglecting this crucial step can liken your will’s foundation to one built on sand—it might falter under scrutiny in court if challenged. Employing a self-proving affidavit can bolster this validation procedure, offering extra confidence in the authenticity of your testamentary document.

What is Required for a Will to Be Valid in Illinois?

Illinois requirements for valid wills are stated in Article 4 of the Probate Act. For a will to be valid in Illinois:

If a person is incapable of signing their own will, the law provides that they may name a different person to sign the will on their behalf. 

What is a Handwritten Will?

A handwritten will is considered a will that is self-authored without the help of an attorney. There are different types of handwritten wills, and the legality of each of them varies.

Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Illinois? 

The requirements for validity of a will stated above apply equally to handwritten wills and wills prepared with the assistance of an attorney. A handwritten will that meets all of Illinois’ requirements is legally valid. 

Can I Make Handwritten Changes to My Will Without an Attorney?

If a Will were modified in handwriting, the modifications would not be legally valid unless the modifications are executed and witnessed in the same manner described above. A testator may not make a Will that was typed with the help of an attorney and cross out or handwrite specific changes into it.

What is a Holographic Will?

A will is known as “holographic” if it was handwritten without any witnesses. In Illinois, holographic wills are not legal because they do not meet Illinois’ requirement that a will must be executed before two witnesses.

Is a Will Executed in a Different State Legal in Illinois?

The general rule is that if a will was created in a different state in which the testator resided. The testator subsequently moved to and died in Illinois; Illinois will uphold the foreign will so long as it is valid in the state in which it was executed. However, Illinois does not accept holographic wills under any circumstances.

Why Should I Use an Attorney to Prepare My Will?

Although handwritten wills are legal in Illinois, there are many benefits to preparing a will with the assistance of an attorney:

  • Wills prepared by an attorney is less likely to be successfully challenged in a will contest;
  • Attorneys use language that anticipates future scenarios so that the will is less likely to require an update based on changed life circumstances;
  • Handwritten wills are more likely to be vague, ambiguous, or misinterpreted than wills prepared by an attorney; and
  • Handwritten wills are more likely to have critical errors in their drafting that cause their intent to be frustrated and the estate to be distributed in a way that does not comply with the testator’s actual wishes. 

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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