Despite the fact that most people realize the importance of creating a comprehensive estate plan, as many as half of all adults never get around to doing it. As a result, many people die without leaving behind as much as a valid Last Will and Testament. If you die in the State of Illinois without a Last Will and Testament, what happens to your personal possessions, money, and other assets?
Illinois, like all states, has a considerable body of law devoted to handling intestate estates, or estates where the decedent died without executing a Will prior to death. Collectively known as “intestate succession laws”, these laws decide who the legal heirs of your estate are and how much of your estate they are entitled to if you die intestate.
When a person dies, his or her estate typically has to pass through the legal process known as probate to ensure that the estate assets are transferred to the proper beneficiary and that all claims of the estate are paid. When a person dies intestate another function of the probate process is to determine who the legal heirs are and to locate those heirs. In Illinois, your estate assets will be distributed as follows if you die intestate:
- Spouse but no descendants – spouse inherits everything
- Children but no spouse – children receive everything
- Spouse and descendants – estate split equally – spouse inherits half and children inherit half
- Parents and no spouse, siblings or descendants – parents inherit everything
- Siblings but no spouse, descendants or parents – siblings inherit all
- Parents and siblings but no spouse or descendants – inherit equal shares except if only one parent is alive that parent receives a double share
As you have likely noticed, friends, co-workers, and charities receive nothing from your estate if you die intestate. Even if you promised your best friend for years that he or she would get your childhood baseball card collection the court cannot give it to your friend if you die intestate.
Another thing to consider if you fail to leave behind a valid Will is that the Court is often forced to sell all of your estate assets in order to ensure that the total of those assets is calculated properly and then divided equally among the heirs. This may mean that your family home must be sold to ensure that your children receive equal shares of the home’s value. If may also mean that your beloved baseball card collection has to be sold and the profits divided among heirs.
The simple way to avoid these unwanted outcomes is to take the time now to create an estate plan.
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