Estate Planning | Living Wills | Guardianship | Power of Attorney

What You Need to Know About Preparing a Will

The Internet has changed the way that Americans do business. While shopping online offers many benefits, it can be risky. This is especially true when it comes to taking care of your legal needs. The Illinois State Bar Association urges extreme caution to those who consider using legal forms available online.

One product available for purchase is a fill-in-the-blanks will. A will is a document that controls the distribution of a person's property after his or her death. Each state has formal requirements for a will, and if they aren't followed, it could result in the will being declared invalid by the court.

Just because a will is signed does not mean it is valid. In Illinois, a person who creates a will must be 18 years old and of sound mind and memory. The will, which must be put in writing, must also be signed by the maker and witnessed in the special manner provided by law. Persons who are beneficiaries under the will cannot serve as witnesses.

When working with an attorney in preparing a will, there are a number of decisions a person must make related to the dispersal of his or her assets:

  • Who will receive the assets from the estate and at what age?
  • Who will be named as guardians of minor children and what are their duties?
  • Should life insurance proceeds be payable to a trustee or executor named in the will or to individuals directly?
  • And who should be named executor of the will?

There are other considerations:

  • Should charitable gifts be indicated?
  • What steps can be taken to avoid paying unnecessary taxes upon the person's death?

Furthermore, the will must be kept up to date. A change in marital status, status of beneficiaries or important changes in assets or other circumstances necessitates updating the will. A will can be changed or even revoked anytime before the death of the maker. To be effective, changes must be in strict accordance with legal requirements.

When meeting with a lawyer for the first time, it is advisable to take with you a list of your assets and the names and addresses of those who should receive them when preparing a will.

Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page

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