How to Write a Will in Illinois

Illinois residents can choose how they want their belongings divided by creating a will in accordance with state guidelines. Drafting a will means your belongings will be disposed of how you wish after death. Individuals who do not have a will, or whose will is found to be invalid, may see their belongings evenly divided between their spouse and their children, even if that was not their original intent. Writing a will is not especially complicated. However, you must follow Illinois' specific requirements before the court will honor it.

Identify the Relevant Parties

Start by typing an introduction that states that you are at least 18 years of age and that you are of sound mind and memory. These statutory requirements are designed to show that you have the necessary capacity to write a will. Illinois does not recognize oral wills, so you must write this information down. To avoid any confusion, spell out the name of your spouse and your children, if applicable. Later sections of your will may reference this information.

Appoint an Executor

Name the person that you want to serve as the executor of the estate. This individual is responsible for fulfilling the instructions of your will. By Illinois law, an executor has to be at least 18, be a resident of the United States, be of sound mind and not be a convicted felon. Name a contingent or successor executor in case the first person can't or won't act in this capacity. State the powers that you want the executor to have. For example, you may give the executor the power to mortgage, sell, lease, buy or invest assets. These actions may require additional court orders to enforce. A common duty for an executor is to pay the debts you have at the time of your death using your estate's assets.

Say Where You Want your Assets to Go

Provide details about any specific items or property that you want to give a particular person. For example, you may want to give your nephew an autographed baseball. If that's important to you, make sure it's spelled out in your will. You do not have to leave anything to family. However, by Illinois law, your spouse is entitled to a portion of your estate. They can renounce your will and take their elective share, which is one-half of the estate if you have no children or one-third of the estate if you do. They are also entitled to the first $20,000 of your estate. They can choose this statutory amount, or select instead whatever you leave in the will.

The "residue" is what's left over after you have made specific gifts to people, and you need to include a clause dealing with the residue. Most people leave the residue of their estate to their spouse or their children. For example, you may say that you wish to leave any residue of your estate to your daughter.

Name a Guardian for Minor Children

Name the person who you want your minor children to live with. A guardian designation in a will does not prevent custody passing to a "fit and competent" parent. Another individual can be named to handle any assets left to the minor children. You can also leave specific instructions for how you wish the guardian to raise your children, for example, which school they should attend.

Meet Illinois Requirements for Signing the Will

Include a closing paragraph in which you reiterate that the document is your will and that you are signing it on the designated date. Illinois does not recognize holographic, unwitnessed wills and these wills may be invalid. Instead, all wills in the state must be witnessed by two uninterested parties, meaning that they do not stand to inherit or benefit from the will. Sign your name in front of the witnesses, and then watch as they sign their names. Illinois does not require that your will be notarized.

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About the Author

Samantha Kemp is a lawyer for a general practice firm. She has been writing professionally since 2009. Her articles focus on legal issues, personal finance, business and education. Kemp acquired her JD from the University of Arkansas School of Law. She also has degrees in economics and business and teaching.