Naperville Estate Planning Lawyer Discusses Handwritten Wills
For most people, a last will and testament is one of the most important documents they will ever create. Your will is likely to contain provisions that dictate how your assets are to be divided among your chosen beneficiaries but may also include many other considerations. You can use your will to establish guardianships for your children and make arrangements for heirs who may not be capable of managing their own affairs. Your will is also likely to name an executor to manage your estate and to oversee the distribution of your assets.
In my practice as an estate planning lawyer in DuPage County, I have prepared wills for countless clients as they look to secure the future for their loved ones. I take every precaution to ensure each will is properly witnessed, signed, and otherwise created in accordance with Illinois law. But what about a will that is not prepared by an attorney or one that is handwritten by the will’s creator? Is a handwritten will valid in the state of Illinois?
Handwritten Wills and the Law
The validity of a will in Illinois is determined by the Probate Act of 1975. The Probate Act provides that a valid will must in writing and signed by the will’s creator—known as the testator—or another person in the testator’s presence at his or her direction. The signing of the will must be attested to by at least two witnesses. If one of the witnesses—or his or her spouse—is a named beneficiary in the will, two other witnesses must attest the signing. The testator must be at least 18 years old and have the capacity to understand the terms and conditions of the will.
The law makes no reference to how the will must be created other than that it must be written. A handwritten will meets the definition of a written will as far the law is concerned. This means that any will that is appropriately signed and witnessed is a valid will. A handwritten will that is not witnessed is known as a holographic will and is not valid under Illinois law.
While such a document may be valid, there are a number of reasons that a handwritten will may not be ideal. Most importantly, a handwritten will suggests that the testator developed the document without the guidance of a legal professional. The will, therefore, could contain errors, provisions that are not enforceable, and decisions that could be challenged down the road. A person looking save money on hiring estate planning lawyer is more likely to make mistakes that may not become evident until long after his or death. These issues, though, are more relevant to the contents of the will rather than its format. A will cannot be declared invalid simply because it was handwritten as long as all of the legal requirements for a will are met.
Let Us Review Your Handwritten Will
If you have prepared a handwritten will, it is advisable to have it reviewed by an experienced Naperville estate planning attorney to ensure that it is valid. Our team can also help you identify any potential concerns and prevent them from causing real problems for your family in the future. Call the Gierach Law Firm at 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation today.
Probate Act of 1975