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Everything You Should Know About a Last Will and Testament in Illinois
A last will and testament in refers to the document recognized by the law as a representation of your wishes on matters pertaining to your assets after your death. It is the cornerstone of estate planning in the state.
A last will, prepared through filling out a free Illinois last will and testament allows naming of a person as the executor or administrator of your estate upon your demise. The named executor has to represent and protect your wishes and your estate after your demise.
The person who creates the free last will and testament in Illinois is the testator, and as long as the will is writing, it protects the interests of the testator with regards to their property and children (if any).
Thanks to a will, you get to protect your loved ones (spouse and children/other dependents) including your pets.
The best bit about that last will is that it grants you leeway regarding how and who inherits your estate. So, whether you wish to give your children everything, or your spouse, or even if you want your sister/ brother/ friend to inherit your property, even if you have a surviving spouse, the will lets you. The only catch is that the will could be contested and so, you may want to name all beneficiaries and distribute your assets in a manner that will least likely elicit a challenge – you don’t want the court to overturn or alter your wishes, do you?
Like a living will, the last will carries your directives but, these are two different documents. The living will is only enforceable when you are alive but unable to act because of geographical differences or if you are mentally or physically incapacitated, but alive. A living will loses its power upon your death. The last will, on the other hand, represents and it enforces your wishes/ directives upon your death.
Uses of the last will
Note this: even though it is not a legal requirement to create a last will and testament, it is a wise move. Without the will, you invite the state to your home, and they invoke the intestacy laws. The intestacy laws refer to the laws that apply to asset distribution when an individual dies without creating a will.
Unfortunately, the involvement of the state means that your wishes are not respected because they were not written down and once these laws kick in, your friend, church, charity organization, or your pet will not get a share of your estate as you would have wanted.
- But, with a will, your wishes, however weird or out of the norm, will be respected. You can use the will to:
- Protect your children
If at the time of your death you leave behind minor kids, a guardian named in their will (after they accept the guardianship roles) will take care of your kids and help manage part of their inheritance until they are of age. You can also use the will to create a testamentary trust to secure the future of your children or those of your grandchildren.
And even if you have big kids at the time of your death, you can name them as beneficiaries of your estate. In case you have more than one child, you need to split their inheritance appropriately and allocate them their inheritance in different or the same percentage.
- You also need to be specific when dividing inheritance between kids and your surviving spouse.
- Protection and care for your pet
- If you have a pet you wish to take care of for as long as it is alive, you could create a pet trust. The pet trust automatically terminates after the animal dies and when no animal is covered by the trust anymore.
- Speeding up the probate process
With a valid will, the process of property distribution at the probate court takes less time. Probate refers to a court-supervised process initiated to oversee the distribution of the assets of the deceased and according to the directives of the will.
- The probate court expects the person with the will (the executor) to file the will with the clerk of court in the appropriate county for the court to issue the official letters of office which recognize the executor. Once this takes place, the executor gets the power to distribute the property.
- Business succession and asset protection
In other cases, the testator may use the will to create a business succession plan, especially if they wish for the business to stay in the family. They could also create a trust that will protect the beneficiaries of the estate later.
What makes a valid will?
It should be prepared and signed by a testator aged 18 or older. 2 credible witnesses must sign the will, and the witnesses should not be beneficiaries of the estate.
Testator should be of sound mind, beneficiaries named, and it should be in writing.
Under Illinois’s intestacy laws, the state divides the estate in two and grants the divided assets to the living spouse and the children. But, if you only have one living child or a spouse alone, they get the whole estate.
And, if you don’t have a living spouse or children, your closest relatives (parents or siblings or grandparents) inherit your estate. Like other states, the persons closest to you are on top of the list for possible asset allocation.
Changing the will is only possible if you enforce the changes the same way you created the will. Changes are only done by the testator or following their directives, in their presence.
Revocation is possible through acts that indicate willful revocation (destruction, cancellation, or obliteration), execution of a newer will, execution of a newer will which appears inconsistent with the older will, and by signing a revocation notice.
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