When you make a will in Illinois, you must follow specific signing and witnessing legal requirements. The requirements help ensure the identity of the person who signs the will and protect against fraud.
What Are the Signature and Witness Requirements for an Illinois Will?
A properly signed and witnessed will is a legally binding document. It binds the probate court and the estate executor to follow what it says, regardless of heirs’ disagreement. To execute a will, the law requires the following:
- A testator (the person making the will) with capacity to act, and not acting under someone’s undue influence;
- A written will;
- The signature of the testator on the will document (or the signature of a person who signs in the testator’s presence and at his direction); and
- Attestation by two credible witnesses in the testator’s presence.
Unfortunately, testators do not always follow these requirements to the letter. For example, someone might have only one witness or have the witnesses sign outside the testator’s presence. The testator might forget to sign the will altogether or not have the capacity to make a binding legal will. The courts have dealt with many cases involving wills that may or may not meet the requirements.
Unless the testator properly executes his or her will, the probate court could disregard it. If there is no earlier will, the court would order that the testator’s estate be distributed by the rules of intestate succession to close relatives.
How Can You Meet the Signature and Witness Requirements?
Talk to the lawyer who prepares your will about how to get it properly signed and witnessed. Your lawyer may even have disinterested witnesses available, so you can sign the will right away. Businesses that offer notary services are another option to find witnesses if you need them.
If you decide to prepare a will yourself, ensure that you understand the signature and witness requirements and follow them. Otherwise, your wishes may not be carried out when it comes time to distribute your estate.
Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.