You have undoubtedly been told by well-meaning friends and family member how important it is to execute a Last Will and Testament. Unless you understand why that is so important, however, you may lack sufficient motivation to get started on your Will. Knowing what happens if you die without a Will in the State of Illinois should prompt you to get started on your estate plan today.
What Is a Last Will and Testament?
A Last Will and Testament is a legal document that allows the Testator (the person creating the Will) to communicate his/her final wishes with regard to assets owned by the Testator at the time of death. Although you may not realize it, there are actually several different types of Wills a Testator may choose from when creating a Will, the most basic of which is referred to as a Simple Will. Even a simple Will, however, can accomplish a great deal, starting with ensuring that the Testator does not leave behind an intestate estate.
Dying Intestate – The State of Illinois’s Estate Plan
As you know, your Will is the legal document used to decide how your estate assets are distributed upon your death. In legal terms, if you leave behind a valid Will you are said to leave behind a “testate” estate. Conversely, if you fail to execute a Will prior to your death, you leave behind an “intestate” estate. If you leave an intestate estate behind, you are effectively telling the State of Illinois that you want the state to decide what happens to your estate assets when you are gone. You may not think you have enough of an estate to worry about how it is distributed; however, almost everyone owns at least some estate assets when they die. More importantly, the monetary value of your assets isn’t always what is truly important. You probably own sentimental items or family heirlooms that are priceless to you. Whether your estate is modest or excessive, don’t you want the opportunity to decide what happens to the assets you do own – and worked hard to obtain – when you die? Moreover, do you really want your family heirlooms to be sold in an estate sale or given to someone who doesn’t reassure them as you do? If the Illinois intestate succession laws dictate how your estate is distributed, only very close family members are likely to receive assets from your estate – and you do not get to decide which ones they are nor what assets they receive. Specifically, the Illinois intestate succession laws dictate that your estate shall be distributed as follows:
- Survived by spouse only – spouse receives the entire estate
- Survived by descendants only – descendants split the entire estate, per stirpes
- Survived by spouse and descendants — the surviving spouse will inherit one-half (1/2) of the deceased spouse’s probate estate and the children will inherit the remaining one-half (1/2), per stirpes.
- Survived by parents but no spouse, descendants or siblings – parents inherit the entire estate.
- Survived by siblings but no parent, spouse, or descendants – siblings inherit the entire estate.
- Survived by parents and siblings – parents and siblings inherit the estate in equal shares, except that if only one parent survives, he/she receives a double share of the estate.
- Not survived by any family members – the estate escheats to the State of Illinois, meaning the State gets the estate assets.
The Illinois intestate succession laws dictate that more distant family members will inherit nothing from your estate nor will friends or charities that are dear to you. Your favorite niece, to whom you promised your Barbie doll collection, will not receive it if you die without a Will. Your best friend won’t get your autographed World Series baseball and the charity that you donate to on a regular basis will also receive nothing. You don’t let the State of Illinois decide how you can use your assets while you are alive. Why would you let them decide what happens to them when you are gone? The simple way to prevent such an unwanted result is to make sure you have a valid Last Will and Testament in place at all times. As both you and your estate grow you may need to expand your estate plan; however, for now, your Will provides all the protection you and your assets need.
Contact Illinois Estate Planning Attorneys
Please join us for a FREE upcoming seminar. If you have questions or concerns regarding estate planning, or wish to get started on creating your Will, contact the experienced estate planning lawyers at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.