Creating a last will and testament puts you in control of your property after you die. When you don’t create an estate plan prior to your passing, Illinois state law dictates what happens with your property.
Intestate succession laws clearly outline who should receive property from the estate of a person who dies without a will. For some people, those intestate succession laws align with the steps they would have taken when allocating their property in an estate plan. For others, however, intestate succession laws will not represent their deepest wishes.
Those who have a long-term romantic partner they have not married and those estranged from their closest family members are among those who have a greater need to avoid intestate succession than others. Who typically receives your property when you die without a will?
State law favors your closest legal and biological family
Your property goes to the people closest to you when you die without your own estate plan. The strongest inheritance rights apply to a surviving spouse, although children also have a strong inheritance claim under Illinois law.
If you have neither a spouse nor children, then parents or other family members will be the ones who inherit your property. Obviously, those who have complicated relationships with their children, parents or other immediate family members may not want this to occur. In cases where someone does not have any family that the Illinois probate courts can locate, their property may eventually become the property of the state.
Even those on excellent terms with their immediate family may have special intentions for specific property, such as leaving assets to a charity or explicitly leaving property for certain people.
How do you ensure that you control what happens with your property?
The best way to control what happens to your property after your death is to draft a comprehensive estate plan that addresses the distribution of your assets and other legal issues that could arise, like who will serve as guardian for your children.
Creating customized estate planning documents will give you the most protection, and ensuring that your family members know where you stored those documents and what attorney or law firm you worked with to draft them gives you confidence that the people handling your estate have access to those crucial documents. Understanding the consequences of dying without an estate plan might actually motivate you to create one.