The passing away of Chicago Cubs’ legend Ernie Banks was a sad day for baseball fans everywhere. Unfortunately, his death sparked a controversy within his own family after his longtime caretaker claimed that he had executed a will. Recently, a court upheld the validity of the will. Here, we focus on some of the reasons why this occurred and the steps all individuals should take to best protect their will from a challenge.
Following the death of Banks, his widow claimed that he did not have a will. However, his caretaker came forward and claimed that Banks had created and signed a will three months prior to his death. The will gave all of his assets to the caretaker. Banks’ widow argued that he was not of sound mind and that the caretaker coerced him into executing the will. In order to prove the validity of the will, two paralegals testified that they witnessed Banks sign it. Further, the paralegals testified that Banks appeared fine and even mentioned during the notarization that he was not leaving anything to his family. The court ruled that the will was valid, though an appeal is likely.
Executing Valid Wills
A person who executes a will is known as the testator. For a will to be valid under Illinois law, it must be in writing and signed by the testator. Further, the signing of the will must be witnessed by two people and it must be notarized. Additionally, the testator must be of “sound mind and memory” at the time the will is created and signed. At the signing, a testator may want to document that he or she has the mental capacity to execute the will. This may include obtaining the opinion of a doctor that establishes the testator’s capacity.
It is important for the testator to state clearly his or her wishes as to the disposition of the property. The testator may want to include his or her reasoning for the way in which their assets will be distributed. In the case of Banks’ will, he affirmatively stated he was leaving all of his assets with his caretaker. Further, he included a statement that he intentionally was leaving nothing to his family. This was an important provision because it made clear that an omission had not occurred. In other words, it signaled that Banks had not simply forgotten about his family.
Many people find it difficult to discuss end of life situations. However, this can be helpful in ensuring that there will not be any challenges to a testator’s will after the testator dies. Speaking with the people included, and those excluded who may have an expectation to be included, in the will can help make sure there are no surprises when the testator dies. If Banks had disclosed to his widow the existence of his will and they had had a discussion regarding it and the reasons he was not leaving her anything, her challenge would have been even less likely to succeed.
If you would like more information or help creating your will, you should speak with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney. Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC proudly represents clients throughout the northwest suburbs, including Inverness, Palatine, and Long Grove.
About the Author: Attorney Jay Andrew is a founding partner of Drost, Gilbert, Andrew & Apicella, LLC. He is a graduate of the University of Dayton School of Law and has been practicing in estate planning, probate, trust administration, real estate law, residential/ commercial leasing, contracts, and civil litigation. Since 2005, Jay has been a Chair of the Mock Trial Committee for the Annual Northwest Suburban Bar Association High School Mock Trial Invitation which serves over 240 local Illinois students each year.