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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Dying Without a Will

While many people might have to create a will on their to-do list, they may not realize the consequences that come with passing away without having a valid will in place. When someone dies without creating a legally valid will, it is referred to as dying “intestate.” Without a will, all assets that pass through probate are subject to state intestacy law. These are the default laws of distributing the estate of a deceased individual, referred to as the “decedent,” and may not necessarily be in line with what the decedent would have wanted had had he or she memorialized his or her wishes in a will.

What Happens If You Die Without a Will?

If someone dies without a will, the estate will still be subject to probate. First and foremost, an administrator of the estate must be appointed. Under the intestacy laws of Illinois, those most closely related to the decedent have the right to nominate the estate administrator.

Intestate laws will guide the distribution of assets. It is important to note, however, that only assets that would have been distributed according to a will would be subject to these laws. Some assets will pass outside of a will and outside of probate, thus, they would not be affected by the decedent not having a will. These assets would not be affected by intestacy laws and include things like:

  • Jointly held property

  • Assets held in a living trust

  • Life insurance policy proceeds

  • Retirement account funds

  • Transfer on death (TOD) securities accounts

  • Payable on death (POD) bank accounts

For all other assets of the decedent, the probate court will turn to Illinois laws of intestate succession. The law will go through people who are closely related to you first and then, look out into further branches of the family tree from there. For example:

  • If you die with children, but no spouse, your children will inherit everything.

  • If you die with a spouse, but no children, your spouse will inherit everything.

  • If you die with a spouse and children, your spouse will inherit half of your intestate property and your children will split the other half.

  • If you die with no spouse, no children, no siblings, but you have surviving parents, the surviving parents will inherit everything.

  • If you die with no spouse, no children, no parents, but have surviving siblings, the siblings will inherit everything and split it equally.

  • If you die with surviving parents and siblings, they will inherit all of your intestate property in equal shares. The exception to this is that if you only have one surviving parent, that parent will get a double share.

The state intestacy laws will make every attempt to locate remote relatives in the event that you have no closely related, surviving relatives. In some cases, however, a person will die without a will and without any ascertainable or locatable relatives. In this case, the property of the estate would be deposited into the state’s coffers. In other words, the property would “escheat” to the state.

Protect Your Wishes with A Comprehensive Estate Plan

A comprehensive estate plan will protect your wishes for the future of your family and loved ones. Contact M&A Law Firm, P.C. today. We proudly serve Cook County and Skokie, Illinois.


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