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Illinois Wills Laws

Having a valid will can mean the difference between your property being distributed according to your wishes, or having your property distributed according to a pre-set arrangement provided by the state. This arrangement (called "intestate succession") is used in the event that you do not have a will or your will is invalid. If you fall into either of these categories, when your estate is distributed, the court will work down your family tree and distribute your property to those most closely related to you. So if you would like your money to go to your best friend or favorite charity instead of your estranged grandchildren, it is very important that you have a valid will.

To protect estates from forged wills or involuntarily executed wills, all states have laws setting out the requirements for a valid will. For the most part, state laws concerning wills are rather uniform, partially to prevent tampering by heirs with ulterior motives. The most universal law across all 50 states is the requirement that the person writing the will must have reached the age of majority (i.e. he or she is legally an adult -- usually 18 years of age).

In Illinois, to have a valid will it is required that two or more credible witnesses validate or attest the will. This means each witness must watch the testator (person making his or her will) sign or acknowledge the will, determine the testator is of sound mind, and sign the will in front of the testator. The witnesses do not have to validate that will at the same time. 

A brief summary of Illinois wills law is listed in the table below. Alos, see FindLaw's Wills section for related articles and resources.

Code Section

755 ILCS 5/4-1, et seq.

Age of Testator

18 years or older and of sound mind and memory

Number of Witnesses

Attested in presence of testator by two or more credible witnesses (not necessarily in each other's presence).

Nuncupative (Oral Wills)

Not valid

Holographic Wills

Not valid

Note: State laws are constantly changing -- contact an Illinois wills attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state law(s) you are researching.

More Information

For more general information on wills, trusts, and the probate process, take a look at FindLaw’s section on estate planning. An estate planning lawyer can help draft your will to ensure that it is valid, as well as help you plan the best way to structure the distribution of your estate.

Research the Law

Illinois Wills Laws: Related Resources

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