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Filing a Will in Illinois

When a loved one dies, the family and friends who are left behind are often confused about their next steps. Amidst their grief, survivors must navigate unknown territory. At Hays Firm, many of our clients are working through an emotional grieving process and handling an Estate or Trust for the first time. Acting as an executor of a Will or an administrator of an Estate is simply not a job with which most people have experience. The attorneys at Hays Firm can guide you and your family through the process of gathering assets, paying bills, and distributing property.

One of the first matters that needs to be completed after a person passes away is the filing of a will. If the deceased person had a will, the original must be found and filed with the County Clerk. In an ideal world, people tell their friends and family the location of their wills. However, every so often, an original will is difficult to locate. Generally, an original will may be found with the deceased person’s important papers and records. Many people store their wills in a fireproof safe. Others store their wills in a safety deposit box at a bank.

Once the original will is located, it must be filed with the County Clerk. The will should be filed in the County where the deceased person lived prior to death. For example, in Illinois, if a person dies while a resident of Chicago, the will should be filed in Cook County. If a resident of Chicago dies while on vacation in a different state or different county, the will should still be filed in Cook County. The place of death may be different from where a person lived. To determine where to file the will, look to see where the person resided before death.

In Illinois, a will must be filed within thirty (30) days of a person’s death. Failure to file a will in your possession is a felony under Illinois law. Again, the filing must be an original will – the original signed document – not a paper or electronic version of the will. Once the will is filed, you may obtain certified copies of the will from the clerk’s office. Executors of Estates often need to present certified copies to banks and other financial institutions.

At Hays Firm our staff has many years of experience working with the clerk’s office from many counties. We can guide you through the process of filing a will and opening a probate estate if necessary. Our attorneys will help you review and understand the will, and guide you through this difficult phase of your life. Please feel free to contact us any time.