Proof of Will Hearings in Illinois

When a person’s heirs or beneficiaries believe a loved one’s will is the result of fraud or forgery, they may have the option of contesting the estate in probate court. These proceedings often begin with a formal proof of will hearing, where the witnesses to a decedent’s will are asked to testify as to the authenticity of their signatures, as well as the execution of the document. The outcome of proof of will hearings can have a significant impact on the fate of will contest proceedings. If you believe a relative’s will does not represent his/her true wishes, it is important to contact an experienced Highland Park contested estates lawyer who can walk you through a proof of will hearing.

Attestation Clause

Most properly executed wills contain an attestation clause, which is essentially a recitation of the legal requirements to create a will in Illinois. If a will appears to have been executed in accordance with these rules and to contain an attestation clause, a probate court will almost always admit the will to probate without witness testimony. If, however, there are concerns about the witness’s reliability or another execution requirement, a court or a petitioner could request a formal proof of will hearing, in which the witnesses will be asked to testify under oath about the circumstances of the document’s creation.

Demanding a Formal Proof of Will Hearing

After a will has been admitted to probate, the executor is almost always required to send certain notices to the decedent’s heirs and to anyone else named as a beneficiary in the document within 14 days of the will’s admission. Amongst these notices is a document explaining heirs and beneficiaries have the right to demand a formal proof of will hearing if they file a petition with the court within 42 days of the will’s admission to probate court.

If a hearing is requested, the court will request the presence of the will’s witnesses, who are then asked to testify about the execution of the document. If, however, a witness is deceased, mentally or physically unable to testify, cannot be found, or is living outside of the state, the court can instead opt to admit proof of the witness’s handwriting, in addition to any other secondary evidence, which can establish proof of execution.

Reasons for a Proof of Will Hearing

There are a number of reasons why a person would request a proof of will hearing, but in most cases, these proceedings are initiated when there are concerns the witnesses to a will did not properly sign it or were not actually present when the testator signed. However, it is also not uncommon for those who anticipate a will may be contested to initiate proceedings by requesting a formal proof of will hearing, which can be used to help establish whether the witness’s signatures were authentic and to clarify the circumstances surrounding the will’s execution.

Schedule an Initial Case Review Today

Please call Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law at 847-325-5559 to speak with an experienced contested estates attorney about requesting a formal proof of will hearing.

Updated as of July 2019
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