Entries in Wills (1)


Estate Planning 101: What Happens If You Die Without a Will in Illinois?

Understanding what happens to your stuff after you die isn’t a topic everyone is interested in discussing, but aren’t you at least curious? We spend our lives collecting and caring for stuff. If you don’t have a will or trust set up to say what happens to that stuff, the state of Illinois will distribute it this way:

Unmarried with kids/grandkids, etc. – If you are unmarried when you die, but you have descendants, they inherit all your probate estate per stirpes (equally as to each line of surviving descendants). For example, if you have three kids (Mary, Tom & Seth) and Seth died before you leaving his two kids (Sarah & Ben), the assets would be divided like this: 1/3 to Mary, 1/3 to Tom & 1/3 to Seth’s two kids. In other words: 1/6 to Sarah and 1/6 to Ben. If Seth didn’t have any children and predeceased you, then Mary and Tom would each get 1/2.

Married – If you have no kids then your estate all goes to your surviving spouse. Here’s the kicker. If you do have kids, your spouse only gets half of the estate and the other half goes to your children in equal shares. This often surprises people.

Unmarried with no kids – Your estate is equally divided between your parents, brothers, and sisters in equal shares. If only one parent is alive, then that parent takes a double share. If one of your siblings predeceases you, that sibling’s share would go to the children of that sibling, your nieces or nephews.

Also, on an interesting note, there’s no distinction between full blood siblings or half blood siblings. They inherit from you equally.

No surviving parent and no siblings – Your estate is divided in half. Half goes to your maternal grandparents and the other half to your paternal grandparents. The same process of going down the line for descendants happens at this stage. Let’s say your grandparents are all deceased, but you have a surviving aunt. As the descendant of that line of inheritance, she would take part or all of the grandparents share, depending on whether or not she had living siblings.

Last Resort – When all else fails, the state of Illinois happily takes property that is either unclaimed or abandoned. If you have no next of kin when you die, the state of Illinois “inherits” your estate. Real property becomes the property of the county where the property is located and personal property (bank accounts, etc.) belongs to the county where you lived.

These are the rules of descent in Illinois. You can read them for yourself at 755 ILCS 5/2-1 et seq. Understanding these rules is a good starting point for deciding whether or not you need a will.