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3 requirements for creating a valid will in Illinois

On Behalf of | Jul 26, 2023 | Estate Planning |

Having a will means having some say over what happens to one’s dependent family members and valuable property after passing away. A will helps a testator control the distribution of their property and allows them to better provide for their closest loved ones after they’re no longer physically in a position to support them.

Many testators in Illinois only ever draft a will, which means that their estate plans could be at risk if family members challenge their will and the courts invalidate the document. Simple mistakes can result in someone putting together paperwork that does not serve its intended purpose after their death. The three requirements below are the baseline expectations for those hoping to create a valid and enforceable will in Illinois.

The testator must be an adult of sound mind

Having legal testamentary capacity is perhaps the most crucial requirement for the creation of a will. Testators usually need to be 18 years of age or older. They also need to have the intellectual ability to understand their financial circumstances and the legal ability to create a document outlining their personal wishes. Those who have developmental disabilities or acquired medical conditions, like dementia or brain injuries, may not be capable of drafting legally binding documents under Illinois law.

The will should be a written document

The availability of recording technology makes the idea of leaving an audio or video will somewhat appealing. Testators may view providing their last wishes in video format as a more personal approach than drafting a dry document. However, Illinois law is very clear that wills need to be written documents signed by the testator. Any audio or video wills should serve as a supplement to the written paperwork and not as the actual legal testament of someone’s last wishes.

There should be two adult witnesses

The final requirement for a valid will in Illinois is that there are at least two credible adult witnesses who are there to see the testator sign the documents. Those witnesses will serve to affirm someone’s testamentary capacity and the fact that fraud did not occur. Ideally, they will have no right to inheritance in the will, as that could be a conflict of interest that reduces their credibility.

Sometimes, individuals attempting to draft testamentary documents on their own behalf make mistakes because they are unfamiliar with Illinois law. Understanding what the state requires from testators can make it easier to create valid documents that hold up even under scrutiny in Illinois probate courts.


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