Yes, a beneficiary of a will is permitted to serve as a witness to the will under Illinois law, but will only get their bequest if they are a “supernumerary” or “extra” witness. Illinois law requires at least two credible witnesses who are not beneficiaries to also sign.
Who Is A “Beneficiary” Of A Will Under Illinois Law?
A beneficiary under Illinois law is someone who will receive something under the testator’s will, such as money or property.
How Many Witnesses Are Required For A Valid Will In Illinois?
Illinois law requires that a will is signed by two credible witnesses while in the presence of the testator. Pursuant to 755 ILCS 5/4-3:
(a) Every will shall be in writing, signed by the testator or by some person in his presence and by his direction and attested in the presence of the testator by 2 or more credible witnesses.
What Happens When A Beneficiary Witnesses An Illinois Will?
When a beneficiary of an Illinois will serves as a witness to the will, everything gets more complicated. 755 ILCS 5/4-6 provides:
If any beneficial legacy or interest is given in a will to a person attesting its execution or to his spouse, the legacy or interest is void as to that beneficiary and all persons claiming under him, unless the will is otherwise duly attested by a sufficient number of witnesses as provided by this Article exclusive of that person and he may be compelled to testify as if the legacy or interest had not been given, but the beneficiary is entitled to receive so much of the legacy or interest given to him by the will as does not exceed the value of the share of the testator’s estate to which he would be entitled were the will not established.
In sum, a beneficiary of an Illinois will is allowed to witness the will. However, if the beneficiary is one of the two required witnesses, then the beneficiary will lose either all or part of their bequest under the will.
If a beneficiary witness would be a beneficiary under Illinois law if the testator died intestate (without a valid will), then the beneficiary will be entitled to receive the bequest up to the value they would have received if the will had not been established.
If the beneficiary is an “extra” witness, and two other disinterested witnesses signed the will, Illinois law permits the beneficiary to still receive the beneficiary’s bequest under the will.
Most Illinois probate lawyers would strongly recommend that you do not have a beneficiary of your will also serve as a witness. It is unnecessary, could defeat the testator’s intent, and can also open the door to a will contest.
Does A Will In Illinois Need To Be Notarized?
No, under Illinois law a will does not need to be notarized to be valid. A will in Illinois can be self-proved as long as it is signed and witnessed correctly.