June 3, 2020 — People have been using wills for hundreds of years as a way to provide for dependents and also to document one’s property-related objectives after death.

A properly drafted will can also help avoid disputes among family regarding your real and personal property. For example, the inclusion of a no-contest clause may deter an individual from attempting to dispute your will in court if the clause states that anyone who contests the will is not eligible to receive any distributions from the estate.

Another issue to consider is that the estate of someone who dies without a will is subject to Illinois intestacy laws, which outline distribution priorities in the absence of your legally recognized directions. Intestacy leaves the choice of who inherits your property to the default rules under state law rather than your preferences.

The purpose of a will is not only to provide a “how-to” manual for distributing your property. For a parent of a minor child, it is also an instruction as to who should care for the child or children in the event of an unexpected tragedy or premature death. In the absence of a will and a surviving parent or legal guardian, your child or children could be the subject of a legal battle among family and/or friends.

With the evolution of technology, many people opt to use self-preparation software to draw up a will. You may think to yourself, “I don’t have much, so why should I pay a lawyer when I can fill in these blanks myself for such a small cost?” But the truth is, no software is intuitive or personal enough to advise you on what is best for your individual situation. It is also important to remember that some self-preparation programs or templates that you find online do not take into consideration the state in which the preparer resides. Estate and probate laws are different in each state. And as complex as the statutes might be, your plan may also be subject to interpretation by the courts. Templates cannot advise you on how judges would likely decide potential disputes. A clause in a will that is acceptable in one state may not be legally binding in another. Specific facts and circumstances might also change the outcome. Setting up a will on your own without the help of a lawyer can result in unnecessary challenges and costs to your family. These do-it-yourself versions might also overlook opportunities available to you and those who will inherit that you could use if only the generic software “knew” more or better.

We urge you to meet with an attorney who practices estate planning service for Clients to determine what type of estate plan is best for your needs. An effective estate plan will lighten the burden on your family and loved ones after you are gone and may also achieve efficiencies and other benefits. Call us today at 309/828-7600 or send an email to [email protected] to set up your 30-minute initial courtesy consultation with Attorney Tim Leighton and learn more about the estate planning process.