In this article we explain how an estate is divided if the deceased did not have a will. “Intestacy Laws”, “Non-Probate Estate Division”, and “Naming an Administrator”
A person who dies without a will is known as “intestate.” Illinois statutes contain “Intestacy Laws” that determine who receives a deceased person’s assets in the absence of a valid will. These laws apply only to probate property; as a review, probate property must be distributed by the court and include assets which are owned solely by the deceased individual and which has no designated beneficiary. These items include personal property, bank accounts and investments. Frequently, life insurance, payable on death accounts, retirement accounts and property held in joint tenancy are not subject to intestate laws and instead go to a named beneficiary.
Intestate laws vary depending on the state and there can be cases where more than one state’s intestate laws apply to a situation, such as if someone resides in one state but owned property in another. In Illinois, the intestate laws are as follows:
The laws also call for the estate to pay any outstanding debt or taxes of the deceased person before making any distribution to heirs.
Some property, such as investment accounts and transfer on death accounts, have a named beneficiary whether there is a will or not. In these cases, the beneficiary receives the property. If the deceased person owned a trust and named someone else as the trustee in event of death, that property also goes straight to the beneficiary regardless of whether or not there is a will.
If a person dies without a will, he or she has also likely not named an executor for the estate. In this case, the family members closest to the deceased share the right to appoint an administrator for the property. If all family members agree about who should be the administrator, that person is appointed. If there is disagreement, it will go to court and a judge will determined who the administrator should be.
A will enables a person to dictate exactly who gets what upon the person’s death, this is a useful tool for distributing an estate and it is recommended that everyone creates a will while they are living. Property distribution that has to be configured after a person has died can result in property being split in ways that the deceased person would not have wanted.