What Is Required for a Will To Be Valid in Illinois?

Although you know it is essential to plan for what will happen to your property, dependents, and possessions when you pass away, you can’t seem to get started or may not know how to start planning. The first step you want to take is to create a will, which is a written instrument declaring how your wishes are to be carried out after you die.

The proper education and preparation can help you create a will that gives you peace of mind and leaves your estate in good hands. Read more about how to write a will in Illinois and what to consider when creating this legal document.

How To Make a Will in Illinois?

Before you learn how to write a will Illinois, you should check out this state law specifics. Article 4 of the Probate Act under Illinois law specifies the legal requirements for a valid will in Illinois.

  • To create a will, the testator (the person making the will) must be at least 18 years old;
  • For a testator to be deemed competent, he or she must be of sound mind and be able to comprehend the consequences of his or her actions.
  • At least two witnesses must witness the testator signing the will contemporaneously.

Those unable to sign their own will may appoint someone else.

Requirements For a Will To Be Valid in Illinois

All Illinois wills should contain the following seven components.


Include your full name in the title of your will.

Include the document’s language as your “Last Will and Testament,” which will revoke all previous wills and codicils (meaning any old will is invalidated). Also, include in the first sentence your full name and that you are of sound mind and memory.

Executor selection

Identify your executor after establishing your identity in the will.

Your executor must be a personal representative whom you trust to carry out your wishes and will ensure that your estate will be in order after you pass away.

The executor of your estate has several responsibilities. These include:

  • Ensuring your will is presented to the probate court;
  • Ensuring your estate assets are protected from mismanagement;
  • Managing your assets and awarding them to your beneficiaries;
  • Ensuring your estate’s debts and taxes are paid;
  • Using the estate funds to arrange your funeral.

The executor may be personally liable if he or she mismanages the estate, such as in the case of your beneficiaries not receiving the benefits they are entitled to.

Before naming an individual as your executor, you should first discuss the job with them and get their consent. It is recommended that you appoint one or two alternative executors in case your first choice cannot or will not fulfill the executor’s obligations.

Determine your beneficiaries and heirs

When you die, your heirs are usually family members who are automatically entitled to a share of your estate under intestacy state laws. They are not, however, your legatees. Upon your death, your spouse (should you have one) becomes an intestate heir.

On the other hand, a beneficiary is a person you have chosen to receive your probate estate. The beneficiaries you have in mind may not necessarily be your legal heirs. Hence, as the person writing the living wills, it is essential that you clarify this and specifically identify your beneficiaries. This way, your executor can ensure your assets are distributed correctly to your heirs and/or your named beneficiaries. Otherwise, an heir whom you had intended to disinherit may claim that you forgot to mention him or her as a beneficiary in your will.

It is not uncommon for a will to be contested by heirs, beneficiaries, or minor dependents. We recommend seeking the help of an attorney for your will should you wish to disinherit someone or to account for this possibility. You can also utilize non-contest clauses to protect your will, such as when an heir or a beneficiary receives a lesser amount than other beneficiaries and may be unhappy with this.

Name a guardian for minors and dependents

As part of writing a will in Illinois, you may also choose a guardian to care for any dependent or minor children. Choosing a guardian is perhaps the most crucial decision you may make. Upon your death, the guardian of your children will decide where your children will live, where they will attend school, and other important decisions that will directly affect their day-to-day lives. The guardian will also have health care power for the children and make decisions relating to their medical needs.

Assess and divide your property

Your will must reflect your assessment of the value of your property and how you wish to distribute it among your beneficiaries. You may be required to list individual categories of assets, such as:

  • Tangible assets;
  • Bank accounts;
  • Real estate;
  • Retirement accounts;
  • Bonds;
  • Stocks.

You can give substantial bequests, like jewelry or precious heirlooms, to your heirs. You can direct specific percentages, cash amounts, or other gifts to your beneficiaries after you outline the assets that make up your estate. The correct legal terminology can be used if you wish to leave gifts to groups of people rather than individuals.

Have contingency plans in place should you not be able to give your estate to one or more of your beneficiaries. Generally, gifts made per stripe, a term used in wills, mean that the predeceased beneficiary’s estate will be distributed to the deceased beneficiary’s descendants if they do not survive you.

Let your funeral wishes be known

Funeral wishes can also be expressed in your will.

Provide instructions on how you want your remains handled by the funeral home and your loved ones. Specify whether you want your remains buried or cremated and any other details on how you wish your remains to be disposed of.

You may also want to specify how you wish to be remembered, such as through a funeral, a memorial service, or another type of ceremony.

Keep in mind that your direct family members will likely be responsible for making these personal decisions for you if you do not clarify your preferences in a will.

Sign and notarize the document

The will must be signed by two witnesses of sound mind and memory, and although not legally required in every state, the best practice is to include a self-proving affidavit signed by a notary public.

Your will can be amended by following proper legal procedures at any time before your death. In most cases, if you create another will later, it will revoke any previous wills.

What Are the Legal Requirements for Changing Your Will in Illinois?

The testator, or someone else in his or her presence and with the testator’s consent, can make any changes to a will template Illinois by following the same formalities as a will.

What Is a Handwritten Will?

There are different handwritten wills, each with another legal status. Handwritten wills are self-authored without the help of an attorney.

Is a Handwritten Will Legal in Illinois?

Handwritten wills that meet Illinois will requirements are legally valid.

Where Can I Get a Document for Last Will and Testament in Illinois?

You can easily customize any of Lawrina’s templates, which have been pre-drafted and approved by experienced attorneys. As a starting point for writing a will in Illinois, you may want to download the last will and testament template if you are confident you do not need the assistance of an attorney. You can save valuable time by completing this form and downloading your completed will in seconds.

If you need clarification or guidance on any provision in the template, you can seek the professional help of an attorney and review the template together.


When an individual dies without a will, intestacy laws determine who inherits the property. A decedent’s assets are usually inherited by the next of kin, such as the spouse or children. Without known relatives within a certain degree of relationship, the decedent’s property may ultimately be inherited by the state. For this reason, people need to create a will before their death.

aware of what can happen to your property if you do not have a will when you die and what you may legally do with your property by executing a valid will before your death. The best way to ensure that your wishes are followed as closely as possible is to hire an experienced attorney with a background in estate planning or probate law.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a holographic will?

A holographic will is a handwritten will that has not been notarized or witnessed by someone other than the testator. In Illinois, holographic wills are not legal because they do not comply with the state’s requirement that two witnesses will sign.

Does Illinois allow the execution of a will drafted in a different state?

In general, if a will is validly created in a state other than the state where the testator lives, the will remains valid. For example, if the testator created a valid will in a different state prior to moving to Illinois and then died, Illinois would uphold the foreign will as long as it was valid in the other state. Holographic wills, however, are not accepted in Illinois.

Why should I use an attorney to prepare my will?

Although handwritten wills properly witnessed are legal in Illinois, preparing a will with the assistance of an attorney has many benefits:

  • In a will contest, an attorney-prepared will is more likely to be upheld;
  • To reduce the likelihood of the will having to be updated based on changing life circumstances, attorneys have the legal knowledge to use specific language anticipating future scenarios, subject to court approval;
  • There is a higher likelihood of vagueness, ambiguity, or misinterpretation in handwritten wills than in attorney-prepared wills; and
  • A handwritten will is more likely to contain errors that frustrate the testator’s intent, resulting in the estate being distributed in a way that contradicts his or her present wishes.

Do I need an attorney to make handwritten changes to my will?

Handwritten modifications to a will are not legally valid unless they are properly executed and witnessed in the same manner described above. It is not permissible for a testator to cross out or handwrite specific changes into a will that was typed with the assistance of an attorney.

Also read:Revocable Trust vs. Irrevocable Trust

When it comes to estate planning, it's common to use a will template in conjunction with trust when deciding how to transfer assets to...

Article by Yevheniia Savchenko

Yevheniia Savchenko is a Legal Writer at Lawrina. Yevheniia browses through the most interesting and relevant news in the legal and legaltech world and collects them on Lawrina’s blog. Also, Yevheniia composes various how-to guides on legaltech, plus writes product articles and release notes for Loio, AI-powered contract review and drafting software.

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