Creating a will is an important step in planning the distribution of your estate (assets including real and personal property) following your death. Illinois wills allow for any children, your spouse, other family members, and pets to be provided for after your death. LegalZoom works with the testator (or the person making the will) to create valid Illinois wills and to assign a person (called the executor in most states) to administer an Illinois last will and testament after your death.
Basic Requirements for: Illinois Last Will and Testament:
Age: The testator must be at least 18 years old.
Capacity: The testator must be of sound mind (capable of reasoning and making decisions) and memory.
Signature: An Illinois last will and testament must be signed by one of the following:
By the testator
In the testator's name by some other person in the testator's presence and by the testator's direction.
Witnesses: An Illinois last will and testament must be attested in the presence of the testator by 2 or more credible witnesses. The witnesses should not be beneficiaries in the will.
Writing: An Illinois last will and testament must be in writing to be valid.
Beneficiaries: A will may make a disposition of property to any person. Generally, Illinois laws allow you to distribute your property to any beneficiary.
Distribution of Property:
A will can ensure that your property, also known as your estate, passes as you desire to family and any other loved ones after your death. Your estate consists of property and cash assets that you own.
Other Purposes of Wills:
You can nominate a person or persons who will act as guardian for your minor children and outline their duties using our Illinois wills form.
Our Illinois wills form also allows you to name a person in charge of administrating your will, known as an executor.
In addition, you can make a charitable gift using our Illinois wills form.
You can create a trust for your spouse and children.
Notable exceptions to the ability to distribute property:
The surviving spouse of a deceased resident of this State whose estate shall be allowed a sum of money that the court deems reasonable for the proper support of the surviving spouse for the period of 9 months after the death of the decedent.
Renunciation by spouse: the surviving spouse has the right to renounce the will whether or not the will contains any provision for the benefit of the surviving spouse. The surviving spouse is entitled to the following share of the testator's estate after payment of all just claims: 1/3 of the entire estate if the testator leaves a descendant or 1/2 of the entire estate if the testator leaves no descendants.
Property held in joint tenancy cannot be bequeathed by will.
Providing for Pets
Illinois law has a new statute for creating trusts of domestic animals and pets which becomes effective January 1, 2005. A trust for the care of one or more designated domestic or pet animals is valid. The trust terminates when no living animal is covered by the trust. Legalzoom's Illinois wills form gives you the choice of providing for your pets in this manner.
Changing and Revoking
Changing a Will
An Illinois will and testament can be changed through a codicil, which is a document stating additions or changes to the original will. Codicils must be created with the same requirements required by state law for the creation of an Illinois will and testament.
Revoking a Will
An Illinois will and testament may be revoked only
(1) by burning, canceling, tearing or obliterating it by the testator himself or by some person in his presence and by his direction and consent,
(2) by the execution of another will declaring the revocation,
(3) by another will to the extent that it is inconsistent with the prior will or
(4) by the execution of an instrument declaring the revocation, signed and attested in the manner prescribed by Illinois laws for the signing and attestation of a will.
Probate and Estate Taxes
Immediately upon the death of the testator, any person who has the testator's Illinois last will (generally the executor or lawyer) in his possession shall file it with the clerk of the court of the proper county.
After legal documents called letters of office are issued by the court, the executor has the legal authority to follow the instructions in the Illinois last will. Property will then be distributed as stated in the Illinois last will.
Within 9 months of death, Illinois estate tax return (Form 700) must be filed with the Court having jurisdiction over the estate simultaneously with the federal estate tax return. The Illinois Attorney General must get a copy of the federal return. For decedents dying after December 31, 2005, when no federal return must be filed, an estate that is required to file an Illinois estate tax return must also file a schedule of assets as required by the Attorney General. The Attorney General assesses the amount of Illinois estate tax due. The Illinois estate tax must be paid when the federal estate tax is due.
Illinois also requires a generation-skipping transfer tax calculated to the same extent as the estate tax.
It is extremely important to make an Illinois will if you want to control the distribution of your estate. If you die without a valid will, you are said to have died "intestate" and your property will be distributed according to strict Illinois state laws.
This is an overview of Illinois intestacy law and is not intended to be legal advice.
Note that in the following text, "per stripes" refers to the method of distributing property whereby greater benefits are given to those closer in relation to the deceased.
Intestate Descent and Distribution:
If there is a surviving spouse and also a descendant of the decedent: 1/2 of the entire estate to the surviving spouse and 1/2 to the decedent's descendants per stirpes.
If there is no surviving spouse but a descendant of the decedent: the entire estate to the decedent's descendants per stirpes.
If there is a surviving spouse but no descendant of the decedent: the entire estate to the surviving spouse.
If there is no surviving spouse or descendant but a parent, brother, sister or descendant of a brother or sister of the decedent: the entire estate to the parents, brothers and sisters of the decedent in equal parts, allowing to the surviving parent if one is dead a double portion and to the descendants of a deceased brother or sister per stirpes the portion which the deceased brother or sister would have taken if living.
If you make an Illinois will, your valid will prevents the laws of intestacy from deciding the distribution of your estate.