You may wonder what would happen to your assets if you passed away without a will in Illinois. It’s helpful to know the laws surrounding inheritance and estate planning in Illinois. This blog post will discuss what happens if you die without a will in Illinois and how your estate will be divided. We’ll cover topics such as who will manage your estate, who will receive your assets, and which assets are affected by Illinois’s intestacy laws.

What Is Intestate Succession?

When a person dies without a will, it means they don’t leave behind instructions on how they want their assets distributed. Their property then passes through intestate succession. In these cases, state laws determine who will inherit the deceased’s property and assets. The estate will need to pass through probate court, where a judge must divide the deceased’s property and assets according to state laws.

Illinois Intestacy Laws

In Illinois, if an individual dies without a will, the intestate succession laws dictate how to distribute their assets. Any assets not passed on by will or other documents will be subject to Illinois intestacy law. The law is necessarily complex to account for all the possibilities of who might inherit. Generally, though, these laws are designed to favor direct descendants, including spouses, children, and grandchildren. 

When distributing the estate of an individual who died without a will, the law looks to the closest relatives and works its way down the line. In the case of a married couple, the surviving spouse will usually receive all of the deceased spouse’s assets if the deceased spouse has no children. If there are children, the surviving spouse will generally receive half of the deceased spouse’s estate, and the other half will go to the children in equal shares. If there is no surviving spouse, the entire estate will be divided among the children.

If there is no surviving spouse or children, the property may then pass on to any living grandchildren, then parents, then brothers and sisters or their children. The law is designed to distribute the deceased’s property to any available living relatives. If there are no living relatives, all the property goes to the state, but this is pretty rare.

Which Assets Are Not Affected by Intestate Succession?

While most assets subject to intestacy are distributed according to Illinois’s intestacy laws, some are exempt. These include:

  • Any property held in a living trust: Property that is held in a living trust passes directly to the beneficiaries named in the trust. This means that it does not have to go through probate and is not affected by intestacy laws. 
  • 401(k)s, IRAs, and other retirement accounts: Assets held in certain retirement accounts, such as 401(k)s and IRAs, will pass directly to the designated beneficiaries listed on the account.
  • Life insurance policies: The beneficiary of a life insurance policy will receive the proceeds of the policy regardless of whether the deceased had a will. 
  • Securities in transfer-on-death accounts: Securities held in transfer-on-death accounts will pass directly to the beneficiary listed on the account.
  • Real estate in a transfer-on-death deed: Property held in a transfer-on-death deed will pass directly to the designated beneficiary listed.
  • Pay-on-death bank accounts: Bank accounts with a pay-on-death designation will pass directly to the designated beneficiary listed on the account. 
  • Joint tenancy real property: If the deceased owned real property with another owner, it passes automatically to the surviving joint owner.
  • Tenancy by the entirety: This kind of tenancy applies to married couples. The property passes to the surviving spouse.

If you own any of these types of assets, they may not be affected by intestate succession laws. However, it is still essential to create a valid will so that your wishes are carried out regarding your other assets. If you have questions about intestate succession or creating a valid will, speak with an experienced Chicago estate lawyer who can help.

Who Administers the Estate?

When someone passes away without a will in Illinois, the court appoints a personal representative to administer the estate. This person is typically the surviving spouse, adult child, or another close relative of the deceased. The personal representative is responsible for managing the deceased’s assets and distributing them according to the intestacy laws of Illinois. The personal representative must also file any taxes due on behalf of the deceased and pay any debts they may have left behind.

Speak With a Chicago Estate Lawyer

At Peck Ritchey, LLC, our knowledgeable Chicago estate attorneys understand the intricacies of intestate succession. We can provide the information you need to make informed decisions about estate planning. Our attorneys provide compassionate and personalized counsel to clients throughout the Chicago area. Contact us today at (855) 328-5787 for a free initial consultation to learn more.

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