When an Illinois resident dies without establishing a will, the State of Illinois will provide an “estate plan” for the deceased. Unfortunately, the state’s plan for asset distribution may not always coincide with the wishes of the deceased. When a will or other estate planning documents are absent upon an individual’s death, it is referred to as the person having died “intestate”. Upon an intestate death, the deceased’s property is passed to his or her heirs under the Illinois intestacy succession laws.

Intestacy Succession Laws in Illinois

The distribution of assets is decided as follows under Illinois intestacy succession laws.

  • Spouse and Descendants: The surviving spouse will receive half of the deceased’s estate and the remaining half will be split between the descendants.
  • Spouse and No Descendants: The surviving spouse will inherit the deceased’s estate in its entirety.
  • Descendants and No Spouse: The estate will be equally divided among the descendants.

When a child passes away before the deceased, that child’s share is divided equally between his or her surviving children. When there is no spouse or surviving children or grandchildren, the estate is then passed on to parents, siblings, and other relatives. If the deceased is not survived by any family members, the estate will pass to the State of Illinois.

Possible Negative Consequences of Dying Intestate in Illinois

The state’s “one-size-fits-all” laws of intestacy do not adequately account for unique family circumstances. For unmarried couples and people with minor children, dying without an estate plan can result in unacceptable consequences.

  • Unmarried Couples: Under the Illinois intestacy succession laws, unmarried partners have absolutely no legal rights to an estate. With no will, lifetime partners are often disinherited completely while estranged blood relatives are awarded the assets of the deceased.
  • Minor Children: When a parent of a minor child dies intestate in Illinois, and no other parent is surviving, any competent adult may petition the court for guardianship. While the judge has the discretion to appoint a guardian for minor children of deceased parents, he or she has no way of knowing about the deceased’s wished concerning the care of his or her children.

Unfortunately, countless Illinois residents die every year without consulting with an estate attorney or preparing an estate plan. As a result, assets are not distributed as wished, children are raised by court appointed guardians, and surviving family members spend years trying to adequately settle matters in court.