A will is an important part of your estate plan. Some people rely on their will to make their final dispositions, while others may also use instruments such as trusts to make the process more efficient.
An effective will communicates your wishes and serves as a mechanism to implement them. A form will or a carelessly drafted one can give rise to disputes and prolonged litigation, dissipating the estate’s resources and generating conflicts.
Basic legal requirements
The most basic requirement for an effective will is that it be technically valid. Illinois law provides that a will must be in writing and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses, who must also sign the document. A testator must be at least 18 years old, unless serving in the armed forces, and must possess the mental capacity to make a will. Generally, testamentary capacity means the ability to know what property one owns, the nature of one’s personal relationships and the effect of leaving property to someone in a will.
A will can still be valid if one of the witnesses benefits under its provisions. However, that witness may not be able to benefit from the will unless at least two other witnesses, who do not benefit, also sign.
In addition to technical validity, a testator can make a better will by taking into account some additional considerations. Distribution can go smoother if one leaves a complete list of assets along with their locations and documentation such as deeds. A clear description of each asset in the will can prevent unnecessary confusion.
Selecting an executor
In the course of making a will, a testator also appoints an executor. The executor plays an important role and fulfills several complex tasks to get the will through probate and ensure proper distribution according to its provisions. Thus, it can make practical sense to appoint someone who lives close by and who would be able and willing to dedicate a substantial amount of time and effort to execute the will. If you leave complex assets, you may need someone with the specialized knowledge and experience to manage them appropriately.