Home / Illinois Last Will & Testament – Write Your Legal Will

Illinois Last Will and Testament

Written by our Legal Team

A Last Will and Testament (also simply called a “will”) is a legal document. It states your wishes for your property and minor children (if any) for after you pass away. It’s also where you name a personal representative to be in charge of settling your affairs.

The legal requirements for making a will in Illinois can be found in 755 ILCS 5/4-1. See below for the basics.

Start My Will

Step by Step Checklist

State Law Specific

Save & Edit Anytime

Personal Guidance

Making a Will in Illinois

Illinois Will Requirements

To make a valid will in Illinois, certain legal requirements must be met. There are requirements for both the person making the will (called a “testator”), and for the will itself.

Testator Requirements

Regarding testators, the law says:

Every person who has attained the age of 18 years and is of sound mind and memory has power to bequeath by will the real and personal estate which he has at the time of his death. 755 ILCS 5/4-1.

Sound mind generally means that you’re aware of your actions when creating the will. More specifically, it means that at the time the will is made, you understand that you’re creating a will, the nature of the property you own, and to whom you’re leaving your property. Even a person with dementia or Alzheimer’s may be deemed to have a sound mind, if lucid at the moment of signing. If a testator believes there might be any doubt as to his or her mental capacity at the time of the signing, a letter from a doctor affirming mental competence generally can be included with the will.

Will Requirements

Regarding the will itself, the standard requirements are set forth in 755 ILCS 5/4-3.

The law says:

Every will shall be in writing, signed by the testator or by some person in his presence and by his direction and attested in the presence of the testator by 2 or more credible witnesses.

Although there are various exceptions and special rules, these are the standard requirements for Illinois wills.

Does my will need to be notarized?

Notarization is not required, but you should definitely make your will “self proved”. Under Illinois law, a self proved will can be admitted to probate court without the testimony of the witnesses to the will. 755 ILCS 5/6-4. When a will that isn’t self proved is submitted to the probate court, the court will require testimony from witnesses, or other proof, to establish that the will is what it claims to be.

A Illinois will is made self proved if the witnesses sign what is called an “attestation clause”. An attestation clause is a written, signed statement, made under penalty of perjury, in which the witnesses confirm that the will was properly executed. Because the statement is made under penalty of perjury, it’s as if the statement were made in court. So, the witnesses don’t need to physically show up and testify.

By the time a will is submitted to a court, it can be difficult to find witnesses and bring them all to court — not to mention the legal costs. So, you should definitely make your will self proved to avoid this hassle.

Do I need an attorney to make a will in Illinois?

No. An attorney is not required to make a will in Illinois. For the vast majority of people, an attorney will simply do the same things that a good will-making software does — ask you questions and then create documents for you based on your information and wishes. However, in certain situations it is a good idea seek legal advice from an attorney, like if you have a child with special needs, or if you have a high net worth (around $10 million) and are concerned about federal estate taxes. In these cases, an attorney can help you navigate special questions and create a proper plan.

What if I have an old will in place?

Illinois law handles old wills in two ways. First, if you have an old will in place, you can cancel it by creating a new one. A good will usually contains a statement that it revokes (cancels) any prior wills. Second, a will can be cancelled simply by physically destroying it. 755 ILCS 5/4-7.

Do I need to file my will?

Under Illinois law, a will must be filed with the court within 30 days after the death of the testator. 755 ILCS 5/6-1. So, after you pass away, your will should be filed in your local probate court by the person named to be your personal representative (also called an “executor” or “administrator”). This will begin the legal process known as “probate” through which your wishes are carried out under court supervision.

In the meantime, store your will in a safe place and make sure the right people know where to find it. Note: It is not a good idea to store a will in a safe deposit box, because accessing the safe deposit box can depend on getting court approval, and getting court approval can depend on what the will says!

Are there limitations on how I can leave my property?

You can generally leave your property however you want. However, if you are married, your spouse is entitled to some portion of your property (unless a formal agreement was made). Most married individuals leave everything to their spouse anyway, so this usually doesn’t present a problem.

Some wills leave everything in a bundle, while others break out specific gifts for specific people. Some leave everything in equal shares, and others say that everything should be sold and the proceeds distributed in specific percentages.

Start My Will

Step by Step Checklist

State Law Specific

Save & Edit Anytime

Personal Guidance

Complete Estate Planning Package

When you make a will on Willing, you get a set of other key estate planning documents along with it. Our package has you covered.

healthcare

guardians

finances

property

Documents we provide

Start making your
will today

Start My Will