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Kevin O'Flaherty

Intestacy laws dictate the distribution of a deceased individual’s assets in cases where there is no legally recognized will. These regulations guarantee that the person’s possessions are divided based on predetermined legal guidelines. This article cuts through the legal jargon to bring you a straightforward breakdown of how assets are shared out. From bank accounts to real estate, learn who gets what, and the role the courts play in distributing an estate without a will in Illinois, under the Illinois intestacy laws.

In Illinois, the order of inheritance without a will prioritizes spouses and children, followed by parents, siblings, nieces, and nephews only if closer relatives do not exist.

Stepchildren and domestic partners are typically excluded unless legally recognized.

Intestacy Laws in Illinois Explained

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:

  • Deceased person is survived by spouse and descendants: the spouse receives half the property and the children split the remaining half
  • Deceased person is survived by spouse and no descendants: the spouse receives the entire probate property
  • Deceased person is survived by descendants and no spouse: the descendants receive the entire property
  • Deceased person is only survived by parents or siblings: the parents and siblings equally inherit the estate; however, if one parent is deceased, the other parent receives a double share of the estate.
  • Deceased person is not survived by parents, brothers, sisters, or descendants of brothers and sisters: estate is split equally between maternal and paternal sides of the family
  • Deceased person is survived by no one: estate is left to the state of Illinois

The laws also call for the estate to pay any outstanding debt or taxes of the deceased person before making any distribution to heirs.

Estate Division Outside of Probate in Illinois

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.  

Naming an Administrator for an Illinois Estate

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.

Our team is ready address your legal needs remotely OR at one of our many physical locations, including our Champaign attorneys located at:
O’Flaherty Law of Champaign
2506 Galen Dr., Ste. 108A, Champaign, IL 61821
(217) 803-8679

Disclaimer: The information provided on this blog is intended for general informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. This information is not intended to create, and receipt or viewing does not constitute an attorney-client relationship. Each individual's legal needs are unique, and these materials may not be applicable to your legal situation. Always seek the advice of a competent attorney with any questions you may have regarding a legal issue. Do not disregard professional legal advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this blog.


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