Is a Will a Public Record in Illinois?

By Joseph Scrofano

The law typically refers to individuals who draft wills as “testators.” In a will, the testator appoints a personal representative, sometimes called executor, to oversee the administration of the estate upon the testator’s death. When the testator dies, the personal representative must file the will for probate. State law governs probate and varies from state to state. In Illinois, once a will is filed for probate, it becomes a public record like any other court proceeding.

Will Creation

The Illinois Probate Act sets forth the requirements for creating a will in Illinois: the testator must be 18 years or older, and must be of sound mind and memory. To execute a valid Illinois will, it must be written and signed by the testator in the presence of two witnesses. The witnesses cannot be interested parties such as creditors or beneficiaries.


In Illinois, smaller estates are exempt from probate. Generally, a personal representative must probate an estate that is larger than $100,000. This calculation does not include real property, and all real estate held solely in the decedent’s name must be probated. For small estates, the personal representative may file a small estate affidavit, though the personal representative must still file the will with the clerk of the court located in the region of the testator’s last residence.

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Probate in the state is governed by the Illinois Probate Act. Probate is a judicial proceeding in which a probate judge determines whether the will is legal and valid, and oversees the entire process to make sure that the executor follows Illinois law. If necessary, the probate court decides any disputes that arise over the will that the executor cannot settle. In Illinois, the county in which the decedent last resided typically has jurisdiction over the decedent's probate process.

Public Record

Once the personal representative files the will -- whether it's probated or not -- the will becomes a public record. As such, any person can obtain a copy of the will from the clerk of the court where the personal representative filed it. Some courthouses may allow people to make a copy at the courthouse, while others may allow individuals to request copies by mail.

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How to Settle a Small Estate in California

California law does not require you to use the probate court when the decedent's estate is $150,000 or less in value and hence classified as a "small estate." You can use a simplified procedure to transfer the estate property to the beneficiaries without a court order. However, in order to use this procedure for real property, such as a home or vacant lot, the real property must be valued at $50,000 or less.

Responsibilities of an Executor of Estate in Nashville, Tennessee

The probate division of the Seventh Circuit Court oversees probate of estates in Nashville, Tennessee. The executor of an estate must report in periodically to this court. Normally, a decedent names an executor in his will: This is the person he wants to settle his estate, paying his debts and apportioning his remaining assets among his beneficiaries. When a decedent does not leave a will, his estate must still pass through probate, but the probate division appoints an executor.

States Where Holographic Wills Are Legal

Generally speaking, a will must comply with a state’s probate formalities for admission to probate. While state laws vary, probate formalities require that a will be signed by the deceased person -- called the testator -- in the presence of at least two disinterested witnesses. However, some states permit the admission to probate of a will entirely handwritten by a testator. A handwritten will, called a “holographic will,” is admissible to probate even if no witnesses actually saw the testator sign.

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