Most people know that they should have a will, but many don't know what a will is and how it works.
Here’s a quick checklist for making a will in:
A will, also called a "last will and testament," can help you protect your family and your property. You can use a will to:
In Illinois, if you die without a will, your property will be distributed according to state "intestacy" laws. Illinois's intestacy law gives your property to your closest relatives, beginning with your spouse and children. If you have neither a spouse nor children, your grandchildren or your parents will get your property. This list continues with increasingly distant relatives, including siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, cousins, nieces, nephews, and great grandparents. If the court exhausts this list to find that you have no living relatives by blood or marriage, the state will take your property.
No. You can make your own will in Illinois, using Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust. However, you may want to consult a lawyer in some situations. For example, if you think that your will might be contested or if you want to disinherit your spouse, you should talk with an attorney. Nolo's will-making products tell you when it's wise to seek a lawyer's advice.
To make a will in Illinois, you must be:
Being "of sound mind and memory" is not a high bar to reach, and most will-makers will meet this standard even if they are forgetful or physically unwell. Ilinois law assumes that a person is not "of sound mind and memory" if the will maker was determined by a court to be disabled and has been appointed a plenary guardian or limited guardian by the court.
You must make your will in writing in Illinois. It cannot be on an audio, video, or any other digital file. (Although, see “Can I Make a Digital or Electronic Will?,” below.) Type and print your will using a computer, or you can use a typewriter. Illinois does not permit handwritten (holographic) wills.
To finalize your will in Illinois:
Neither witness should be a beneficiary of the will. A witness who stands to inherit under the will may lose the right to that inheritance. 755 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/4-6.
No, in Illinois, you do not need to notarize your will to make it legal.
Many states allow you to make your will "self-proving," which allows the probate court to accept the will without contacting your witnesses. However, Illinois allows your will to be self-proved without a self-proving affidavit, as long as you sign and witness it correctly. 755 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/6-4.
Yes. In Illinois, you can use your will to name an executor who will ensure that the provisions in your will are carried out after your death. Nolo's Quicken WillMaker & Trust produces a letter to your executor that generally explains what the job requires. If you don't name an executor, the probate court will appoint someone to take on the job of winding up your estate.
In Illinois, you may revoke or change your will at any time. You can revoke your will by:
If you and your spouse divorce (or if a court determines that your marriage is not legal), Illinois law revokes any language in your will that leaves property to your spouse or names your spouse to be your executor. 755 Ill. Comp. Stat. § 5/4-7. If you have any concerns about the effects of divorce on your will, see an estate planning attorney for help.
If you need to make changes to your will, it’s best to revoke it and make a new one. However, if you have only very simple changes to make, you could add an amendment to your existing will – this is called a codicil. In either case, you will need to finalize your changes with the same formalities you used to make your original will (see above).
In a few states, you can make a legal will digitally – that is, you can make the will, sign it, and have it witnessed without ever printing it out. Although such electronic wills are currently available in only a minority of states, many other states are considering making electronic wills legal. It is generally assumed that most states will allow them in the near future.
You can find Illinois’s laws about making wills here: Estates 755 Illinois Compiled Statutes 5 Probate Act of 1975 Article IV Wills.