Naperville Estate Planning Attorney Talks About Handwritten Wills
When the “Queen of Soul” Aretha Franklin died last year, there was a great deal written about how she died without a will or any other type of estate plan in place. In fact, I even discussed that very topic in a post on this blog around the time of her death. In recent months, however, reports have surfaced indicating that several handwritten wills were found in the singer’s home. The wills were reportedly signed and dated, but they were neither notarized nor witnessed, so there are still many questions about whether the documents will be enforced under the law in Franklin’s home state of Michigan.
As an estate planning attorney, I am often asked about the validity of handwritten wills. While I am uncertain regarding what will happen with Aretha Franklin’s case in Michigan, I do know what the law says in Illinois. Put simply, a handwritten will can be valid in Illinois if it meets certain requirements set forth by Illinois law.
The Illinois Probate Act
The laws governing the validity of a last will and testament in Illinois are contained in the Illinois Probate Act of 1975. The Probate Act specifically states that in order for a will to be valid, it must be in writing and it must be signed by the person who created the will—known as the “testator.” Alternatively, the will could be signed in the testator’s presence by another person at the testator’s direction. Finally, two more “credible witnesses” must attest the signing of the will. It is permissible for a named beneficiary or creditor to serve as a witness, but there must be at least two other witnesses to attest the signing.
The Probate Act does not specify that a will must be typewritten or computer-generated. This means that a will that has been written by hand qualifies as a written will for the purposes of the law. As long as such a will has been signed and witnessed properly, it is considered to be valid. A will that is handwritten but not witnessed is called a holographic will, which is not enforceable under the Illinois Probate Act.
While a handwritten will might be technically valid under the law, relying on such a document is probably not the best idea. A will that is handwritten strongly implies that the testator drafted its terms without the help of an attorney. Therefore, the document could contain mistakes, unenforceable provisions, and other considerations that might not withstand a legal challenge in the future. These concerns, however, are related more to the substance of the will’s provisions rather than its handwritten format.
Call a DuPage County Estate Wills and Trusts Lawyer
If you currently have a handwritten will, an experienced Naperville estate planning attorney can help you ensure that its terms are valid. We can also assist you in addressing any other concerns you have related to your estate plan. Call 630-756-1160 for an appointment at the Gierach Law Firm today.