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dupage county estate planning lawyerWhen you are grieving the loss of a family member, the last thing you want to deal with is a problem regarding their estate plan. Even when estate administration goes smoothly, it can be emotionally difficult for the surviving loved ones. Unfortunately, sometimes concerns over a will’s validity do arise. Family members may get a rather unpleasant surprise when they get around to reading their decedent’s will in some cases. Sometimes the terms of the will are much different from what you expected to find. It could be that the will leaves everything to an individual or organization the family is not familiar with. Or, it could be that the will appears to have been signed well after the decedent became incapacitated. Whatever tips you off that your family member’s will is not valid, there are ways an attorney can help you challenge the will and potentially have it set aside. 

What Are Some Signs that My Relative’s Will is Not Valid?

There are a number of factors that might suggest to those who knew the testator that the will in question is not what the testator would have made of his own accord. A few signs that should lead you to investigate further include: 

  • Incapacity timing - If your relative had an illness like Alzheimer’s or dementia, their will may not be valid unless it was signed before they lost the mental capacity to do so. You may be able to challenge the will on grounds that your relative was not competent to make a will. 

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lombard estate planning lawyerYou have probably seen at least one murder mystery movie where a wealthy individual is killed for their money, typically by an heir. It is a fairly common trope for impatient heirs to take matters into their own hands in order to get their share of a high-value estate faster. Sadly, this trope does sometimes play out in real life. You may have seen one of many true crime shows feature a terrifying episode where a person marries a wealthy individual, intending to murder their spouse and claim the entire marital estate. Certainly, few would want their killer to inherit anything at all. This is where “slayer statutes” come into play. In general, these laws prevent murderers from inheriting any part of their victim’s estate. 

What if the Killer Does Not Get Convicted?

If the alleged slayer does get convicted of the murder, this establishes conclusive evidence that they are barred from inheriting. However, it is not necessary. To convict a person of a crime, the state must prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that the defendant committed the crime. However, to activate the slayer statute and bar the killer from inheriting, one need only show that it was more likely than not that the murder occurred as alleged. 

What if the Decedent Had an Estate Plan Making the Slayer a Beneficiary?

There is something of a legal presumption that the victim would have changed their mind about leaving anything to their killer, but was robbed of the opportunity to do so. In this case, the victim’s will or trust will be overridden. The estate will be administered as if the slayer were deceased. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_128636027.jpgIt is rather common for people to think of estate planning as an end-of-life task. Estate planning attorneys are often called to visit clients in skilled nursing facilities, hospitals, and hospice centers. However, waiting until this point to make a will can have negative ramifications. One of the major requirements for a will to be considered legal and enforceable is that the testator (the person creating their will) must have the mental capacity to do so. This standard is known as “testamentary capacity.” It is designed to prevent those who are incapacitated from executing a will that they would not have agreed to if they were not incapacitated. It also protects elders and their families against those who would exercise undue influence over a disoriented adult during the estate planning process. 


Testamentary capacity is a relatively low bar - even those with early forms of Alzheimer’s or dementia may be able to make a will under the right circumstances. An attorney will be able to apply this standard to help determine whether someone still has the capacity to make a will. 

How is Testamentary Capacity Determined?

There are a few rather specific standards that must be met for a person to have testamentary capacity. They are: 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_255529744.jpgThere is very little risk in making a will, as you can revoke it at any time so long as you are competent to do so. A lot of people revoke and replace their wills for a number of reasons. If you got divorced and remarried, you might want to revoke the will that left everything to your former spouse. If you had a child, or even a new grandchild, you might want to cancel your old will and create a new one that includes them. Some people simply change their minds about giving part of their estate to a particular beneficiary as their lives and priorities change. Fortunately, revoking a will is not usually overly complicated. It is still best to consult a lawyer to make sure that your revocation is effective. 

How Can I Revoke My Will?

If you decide that you no longer want your existing will to control your estate, there are a few simple ways to revoke it. Once it is revoked, it will have no legal effect. It is a good idea to make sure that you have a replacement plan of some kind. In Illinois, you can revoke your will by: 

  • Destruction - Shredding, burning, ripping up, or otherwise physically destroying your will is a legal way to revoke it. However, this may not be the best method. There could be a dispute over who actually destroyed it and whether it was destroyed purposely or simply lost. 

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b2ap3_thumbnail_shutterstock_290922173.jpgThe terminology used in estate planning can be challenging to understand. If you feel a little confused when you read about estate planning topics because of all the “legalese,” you are far from alone. Many of the legal terms used in the estate planning field have very specific meanings. Some terms are used when discussing trusts, but not wills, or vice versa. Other terms you may know are outdated and no longer in use. It can be difficult to keep track of all the legal terms you might hear or read when it comes to wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and guardianships. This is one of many reasons that it is very important to let an attorney help you build your estate plan.

What Are Some Legal Terms I Might Need to Know?

Some important terms you might want to be familiar with when you start working on your estate plan include: 

  • Testator - The person who is making their will. 

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Illinois State Bar Association DuPage County Bar Association Northwest Suburban Bar Association American Inns of Court DuPage Association of Woman Lawyers National Association of Woman Business Owners Illinois Association Criminal Defense Lawyers DuPage County Criminal Defense Lawyers Association
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