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Intestate Laws in Illinois
If you create a valid will, you get to specify who gets what when you die. If you don’t, the law decides instead, no matter what your wishes may have been. Dying without a will is called dying intestate. This page is an overview of Illinois’ intestacy laws, and hopefully it makes more sense than the actual text of the statute, which can be quite confusing.
- If you have a spouse and children: ½ of your estate goes to your spouse, and ½ goes to your children in equal shares. If you have a child that has passed away before you, then that child still gets their share but it is instead given to their children (your grandchildren), if there are any.
- If you have children and no spouse: All of your estate goes to your children in equal shares. If you have a child that has passed away before you, then that child still gets their share but it is instead given to their children (your grandchildren), if there are any.
- If you have a spouse and no children: All of your estate goes to your spouse.
- If you have no spouse and no children: Your estate will be divided equally among your parents and siblings. If only one parent is still living, they will get a double share (taking both parental shares). If a brother or sister has passed away before you, their children (your nieces/nephews) get that sibling’s share.
After that, the law goes on to more removed relatives, starting with your grandparents, if still living, and if not, to their descendants, which would include your aunts, uncles and cousins. The law treats full-blood and half-blood relatives the same.
It’s only a myth that the government takes all your property if you die without making a valid will. The county and/or state only take over your property if no living relatives can be found. It’s important to know that these intestacy laws also will be applied if your will is found to be invalid.
We certainly agree with the general advice out there – that it’s better to write your own will rather than let a judge apply intestacy laws. On the other hand, don’t fall victim to law firms that prey on fears and tell you that the state will take your assets if you don’t create a will. In many cases, your assets and property will go to the same people you would have named if you had drafted a will.
However, drafting your own will is ideal, for two main reasons. The first is to name beneficiaries and an executor of your choice – someone you trust completely. The other is to save your family from fighting over your assets and arguing about what you would have wanted. It’s best to lay it all out for them in a valid, legal and well written document.
If you have questions about a relative who has died without a will in place, or if you are considering getting a will and other planning documents drafted for yourself, feel free to call us for help getting started. Our attorneys will talk to you about your concerns and give you guidance, for free. Contact us online or by calling us at (312) 346-5320 or (800) 517-1614.
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