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Making a valid will in Illinois

Many people put off thinking about their estate planning as just another unpleasant task. However, taking care of these matters well in advance of when you anticipate an issue to arise can save a lot of trouble for your intended beneficiaries.

Making a will can be an important part of planning your estate. When there is no valid will, the state distributes the estate according to Illinois' intestacy provisions.

Who can make a will

To make a will, Illinois law requires you to be at least 18 years old or else an emancipated minor. Your will must be in writing and you have to sign it at the end. If you are physically not capable of signing, you can appoint someone else to sign your name on your behalf in your presence. This person cannot also serve as a witness of the will.

Witnesses

Two witnesses who see you sign the will must also sign in your presence and in the presence of one another. To avoid prolonged litigation over what "in the presence" actually means, your best option is to have everyone in the same room within eyesight of one another. Avoid complicated scenarios with mirrors, open doors into another room or video conferencing. You need at least two witnesses who do not benefit under the terms of the will.

Out-of-state wills

Illinois will generally recognize wills from other states that comply with those states' requirements for validity. However, Illinois courts will not recognize verbal wills, even from states that allow a terminally ill person to make a verbal will in the presence of witnesses if he or she cannot make a written one. Illinois courts will also not accept a holographic will for probate. A holographic will is entirely handwritten but does not have witnesses.

Potential challenges

A court may deem a will or some of its provisions invalid if it determines they resulted from undue influence or were made when the testator did not have proper mental capacity. Sometimes, family members who do not agree with a will's provisions will challenge it based on one of these grounds.

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