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What happens when someone passes without a will?

When a person passes away, survivors are often left to sort out the deceased's affairs. If the deceased was able to leave behind a comprehensive estate plan and/or will, this process is generally easier for their descendants.

However, there are many instances where someone was not able to set up a will in time. In these cases, the deceased's estate will be settled by intestate succession.

What is intestate succession?

When a person dies without a will, their estate enters intestate succession. This is a branch of law which governs how estates are divided amongst a deceased's survivors.

In the state of Illinois, an estate is divided based on who survives the deceased:

  • Children but no spouse: In these cases, the children generally inherit everything. In Illinois, adopted children are treated the same as biological children. However, stepchildren and foster children who were never legally adopted will not automatically receive an inheritance.
  • Spouse but no children: In these cases, the spouse will inherit everything.
  • Spouse and children: When both spouse and children survive the deceased, the spouse will receive half of the estate and the children will divide the other half of the estate.
  • No Spouse or children: In these cases, the state will try to pass the interstate property to the deceased's most immediate family.

Planning for the future.

Because intestate laws are general, they do not provide a lot of nuance for dividing an estate. Thus, intestate succession can be a long and contentious process. Setting up an estate plan can help you better preserve your estate, have more control over your succession plan and protect your family from a drawn-out succession process.

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