Estate Planning | Living Wills | Guardianship | Power of Attorney

Without a Will in Illinois, the Court Will Determine the Distribution of Assets

What happens if a person dies without a will in Illinois?

While Illinois establishes the right to make a will, it is not compulsory. Without a will, the court distributes the property to the legal heirs of the deceased according to law. It does so by appointing an administrator to settle the estate and distribute the assets as provided by law, after all debts and expenses have been paid.

Just how the assets will be distributed depends on the individual circumstances. For example, if there is a widow and one or more children, the widow gets one half of the estate and the children share the remaining half. In all cases, the law is rigid and makes no exception for those in unusual need. A hastily-contrived "death bed" will often fails to accurately carry out the wishes of the maker or fails to comply with the technical formalities required by Illinois law.

Illinois has adopted independent administration for estates of all sizes. This process increases family privacy; for example, no inventory or accounting is usually filed. Independent administration also reduces the time required in the courts because unless there are disputes between the beneficiaries, or with third parties, the court is involved only for opening and closing the estate.

In summary, it is best to have a lawyer help you draw up a will while you are well and able, so that you have a voice in how your estate will be distributed, as well as to reap tax benefits.

Note: This information was prepared as a public service by the Illinois State Bar Association. Every effort has been made to provide accurate information at the time of publication. For the most current information, please consult your lawyer. If you need a lawyer and do not have one, visit our lawyer referral page

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