If you die without a will in Illinois, your assets will go to your closest relatives under state "intestate succession" laws. Here are some details about how intestate succession works in Illinois.
Only assets that pass through probate are affected by intestate succession laws. Many valuable assets don't go through probate and therefore aren't affected by intestate succession laws. Here are some examples:
These assets will pass to the surviving co-owner or to the beneficiary you named, whether or not you have a will. However, if you don't have a will and none of the named beneficiaries are alive to take the property, then the property could end up being transferred according to intestate succession.
To learn more about these types of assets, go to the How to Avoid Probate section of Nolo.com or read about Avoiding Probate in Illinois.
Under intestate succession, who gets what depends on whether or not you have living children, parents, or other close relatives when you die. Here's a quick overview:
If you die with:
here's what happens:
|children but no spouse||children inherit everything|
|spouse but no descendants||spouse inherits everything|
|spouse and descendants||spouse inherits 1/2 of your intestate property
descendants inherit 1/2 of your intestate property
|parents but no spouse, descendants, or siblings||parents inherit everything|
|siblings but no spouse, descendants, or parents||siblings inherit everything|
|parents and siblings||parents and siblings inherit your intestate property in equal shares, except that if only one parent is living, that parent gets a double share|
In Illinois, if you are married and you die without a will, what your spouse gets depends on whether or not you have living descendants -- children, grandchildren, or great-grandchildren. If you don't, then your spouse inherits all of your intestate property. If you do, they and your spouse will share your intestate property 50/50.
Example: Barrett is married to Jed and also has a 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage. Barrett owns a house in joint tenancy with Jed, plus $200,000 worth of additional, separate property that would have passed under a will if Barrett had made one. When Barrett dies, Jed inherits the house outright; it is not intestate property. Jed also inherits $100,000 worth of Barrett's additional property. Barrett's daughter inherits the remaining $100,000 share of Barrett's property.
If you die without a will in Illinois, your children will receive an "intestate share" of your property. The size of each child's share depends on how many children you have and whether or not you are married. (See the table above.)
For children to inherit from you under the laws of intestacy, Illinois must consider them your children, legally. For many families, this is not a confusing issue. But it's not always clear. Here are some things to keep in mind.
If you want to read the law, 755 Illinois Statutes § § 5/2-2 to 5/2-4 cover parent-child relationships.
This can be a tricky area of the law, so if you have questions about your relationship to your parent or child, get help from an experienced attorney.
If you die without a will and don't have any family, your property will "escheat" into the state's coffers. However, this very rarely happens because the laws are designed to get your property to anyone who was even remotely related to you. For example, your property won't go to the state if you leave a spouse, children, grandchildren, parents, grandparents, siblings, nieces, nephews, cousins, or great grandparents.
Here are a few other things to know about Illinois intestacy laws.
To learn more about intestate succession, read How an Estate Is Settled If There's No Will.
You can find Illinois's intestate succession law here: 755 Illinois Statutes § § 5/2-1 to 5/2-5.
For more about estate planning, go to the Wills, Trusts & Probate section of Nolo.com.
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