Most people do not know what the requirements of a legal will are in their state. For instance, in Illinois I have run into numerous people that think they can write out their will and put it in their desk drawer, and then upon their death it will be valid and followed by courts. That is not correct. In Illinois, there are certain requirements for what makes a valid will.
First, a “testator” is the term for the writer of a will. The testator must be 18 years old and of “sound mind.” The testator must also have the intent that the document is her will. The will must: be in writing; be signed by the testator, or at her direction and in her presence; and must have two witnesses who also sign in the testator’s presence.
The witnesses must sign within the testator’s presence, but it does not have to be viewed directly by the testator. For example, the witness could sign in front of a blind testator, or the witness could sign while the testator looked away, and it would likely be fine as long as the testator knew what was going on.
The testator’ signature doesn’t have to be exactly the same as it has always been written. In fact, any mark made by the testator, or at her direction and in her presence, is allowed by Illinois courts.
Also, in Illinois the signature of the testator does not have to be at the very end of the document. It can be signed virtually anywhere, although a traditional signing at the end of the document makes the most sense.
Unlike some other states, in Illinois oral wills and holographic wills are not allowed. An oral will is a will that was simply recited by the testator to another person or onto a recording device. Holographic wills are handwritten but not properly witnessed. Neither is legal in Illinois, however a holographic will that was created in another state that allows them will be accepted in Illinois.
These are the requirements for a legal will in Illinois, but if you have any doubts or questions it makes sense to speak to an attorney. Not only can they answer these questions but they can also draft the document for you and suggest additional estate planning needs.
For more information on estate planning, wills, trusts, and more, contact an estate planning attorney in your state.