When an individual dies without a valid will, he or she died “intestate”. This means that he or she did not provide instructions for the distribution of his or her assets to his or her loved ones and other beneficiaries. Upon death, the heirs must contact a qualified probate attorney, and the probate court must determine which loved ones are entitled to the assets that are subject to intestate succession laws. Not all assets are subject to these laws; those that are not distributed through a will, such as funds in retirement accounts, transfer-on-death accounts and transfer-on-death deeds, property held jointly with others, and property in living trusts are not distributed this way when an individual dies intestate.

Who can Inherit Your Assets?

Who inherits an individual’s assets after he or she dies intestate depends on which relatives survive the deceased individual. In Illinois, intestate succession works as follows:

  • If the individual had a spouse and no children, the spouse inherits all assets;
  • If the individual had children but no spouse, the children receive equal shares of the assets;
  • When an individual had a spouse and children, the spouse inherits half of the assets and the children inherit the other half;
  • For an individual with no spouse or children, but surviving parents and siblings, the parents and siblings inherit equal shares of the assets. If the deceased only has one living parent, the parent receives a double share of the deceased’s assets;
  • For an individual with living parents but no siblings, the parents receive all of his or her assets; and
  • If the individual had no living parents but at least one living sibling, the sibling receives his or her assets. When there is more than one living sibling, they receive equal shares of the assets.

Rules and Requirements for Intestate Succession in Illinois

There are a few additional rules in play with Illinois intestate succession. Although the deceased’s children as mentioned above as heirs, grandchildren can also receive assets through intestate succession. For example, if an individual has a spouse and a grandchild, but no living children, the spouse and the grandchild each receive a share of his or her assets.
Any individual found to have abused or committed another offense against the deceased individual, including killing him or her, cannot receive assets from his or her estate through intestate succession.

Work with a Chicago Estate Planning Lawyer to Develop an Effective Will

Although it can be good to know that Illinois has laws in place to dictate how your assets will be distributed to your loved ones if you die without a valid will, it is in your best interest to write a will so your loved ones are not subject to these laws later. Work with an experienced Chicago estate planning lawyer to create an effective will that outlines your specific wishes for your assets after your death. This is the most effective way to reduce the stresses your family can feel surrounding your estate after your death.

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