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

Updated on
October 28, 2019
Article written by
Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

In this article we will explain what is required for a will to be valid in Illinois and answer the following questions: “what is a handwritten will?”, “is a handwritten will legal in Illinois?”, and “can I make changes to my will without an attorney?”, “what is a holographic will?”, “is a will executed in a different state legal in Illinois?”, and “why should I use an attorney to prepare my will?”

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.  In order for a will to be valid in Illinois:

In the event of a person being incapable of signing his or her own will, the law provides that he or she  may name a different person to sign the will  on his or her behalf.  

What is a Handwritten Will?

A handwritten will is considered to be 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 was modified in handwriting, the modifications will not be legally valid unless the modifications are executed and witnessed in the same manner as described above. A testator may not take a Will that was typed with the help of an attorney and cross out or handwrite certain 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 then resided, and 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 are 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.  
What is Required for a Will to Be Valid in Illinois?
Author

Attorney Kevin O'Flaherty

Kevin O’Flaherty is a graduate of the University of Iowa and Chicago-Kent College of Law. He has experience in litigation, estate planning, bankruptcy, real estate, and comprehensive business representation.

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