The very idea of estate planning can be frightening for many people, as it is not easy to confront the realization that nobody lives forever. Drafting an estate plan that includes a will, trusts, and other documents requires you to look past the end of your own life. While the difficulties associated with estate planning are understandable, it is critical to have an estate plan. If you were to die without a will or other estate plans, most of your property would probably be subject to the intestate succession laws of Illinois.
What Does “Intestate” Mean?
A particular asset is deemed to be “intestate” if there is no direction specified for how the asset will be disposed of following the owner’s death. Jointly owned property is not usually intestate because the ownership of the joint property will generally transfer to the other owner or owners. Likewise, an investment account that has named beneficiaries or a transfer-on-death clause is not an intestate asset. The named beneficiaries will receive the funds in that account when you die. However, if you are the sole owner of an asset and you have not established legally enforceable instructions on handling the asset upon your death, the asset will be treated as intestate property.
Intestate Succession Laws
The laws governing intestate succession in Illinois are contained in the Illinois Probate Act. Intestate property allocation will depend on your specific circumstances, including your surviving spouse, any children, and other family members. Intestate succession can become extremely complicated, however, as the law provides for a wide variety of possible situations.
For example, if you are survived by your children but not a spouse, your children will receive the intestate property to be divided equally. If you leave behind a spouse but no children, your spouse will receive everything. If you have both a surviving spouse and children, half of the intestate property will go to your spouse, and your children will split the other half. If you were never married and have no children, your intestate property may go to your parents, siblings, grandparents, or even distant relatives.
The law in Illinois does offer some guidelines for distributing the property of those who die with no estate plan, but things can get quite messy. When property is distributed through intestate succession, it is not uncommon for disputes to arise between family members. The probate court also has very little understanding of your family’s dynamics, which means that it is ill-equipped to decide who should get what.
Contact a DuPage County Wills and Trusts Lawyer
Fortunately, you have the ability to prevent the problems associated with intestate succession. With the help of an experienced Lombard estate planning attorney, you can develop a comprehensive estate plan that protects your family and takes intestate succession out of the equation. Contact a member of the team at A. Traub & Associates by calling 630-426-0196 to get started.