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What Happens if I Die without A Will?

Judith Trentman Wilson, Attorney at Law, P.C. May 20, 2020

A will is an important part of an Illinois resident’s estate plan. It provides valuable information about where a decedent wants their property to go when they are no longer living. When an individual passes away without a will that communicates this important direction, that person’s property may pass according to the state’s laws of intestacy.

To die intestate is to die without a will, and the law of intestacy establish an order through which property is distributed to the decedent’s family members. For example, if a person dies intestate and has both a spouse and a child, then the spouse and child will each receive an equal share of the decedent’s estate.

If a person passes away without a will and has only a spouse or a child, then the survivor of those possible beneficiaries may take the entirety of the decedent’s property. If a person passes on intestate and has no spouse or child, then their estate may pass to their parents, their siblings, or their siblings’ children.

The estates of individuals who die intestate are distributed per stirpes, or down branches of family trees. Closely related family members are looked at as possible beneficiaries before more distantly related family members. However, if no family member can be identified for the purposes of distributing an estate, the property contained therein will pass or escheat to the county in which the individual lived.

A will gives a person control and power over what happens to their property when they die. The laws of intestacy may be avoided with a strong and valid will, and an estate planning attorney can assist an individual in the process of drafting and executing their Illinois-compliant will.