Many adults in Illinois do not have a comprehensive estate plan but only a will. There are also countless adults across the state that do not have any estate planning documents in place at all. It is very easy for people to convince themselves that they don’t need a will yet or that their loved ones will know what to do with their property and their dependents should anything happen to them.
However, when someone dies without a will, what happens next follows a very specific set of rules. Many people who understand the intestate succession process (which is the name of the process of administering an estate without any documents left behind) understand why it is so important to make this effort before an individual passes away.
Someone gives up control of their assets if they don’t draft a will
Unless a testator does something that violates State law, such as eliminating a spouse’s inheritance, they generally have the right to decide exactly who inherits from their estate. They can bypass their children in favor of grandchildren or leave assets for charitable causes instead of family members. There are also countless people who have close social relationships with others to whom they have no legal or biological connection.
Unfortunately, the intestate succession process in Illinois is very specific and focuses primarily on someone’s closest legal and biological relationships. The law requires that spouses and children receive primary consideration. There are specific rules outlining how much of the estate the spouse will receive and what the children will get as well. When someone doesn’t have a spouse or children, then their parents will usually have inheritance rights. Barring those close family relationships, more distant relatives, including grandparents, can potentially receive property from the estate.
Almost everyone can see where this approach falls short. Especially when people have intentions to leave resources for charitable organizations or when they have close relationships with friends or romantic partners that they have not married, a will might be the only way to achieve those goals. Those with children will also leave them at the mercy of the state if both parents die and neither has a will naming a guardian.
Learning more about intestate succession can help people see the value of creating a will or, ideally, a comprehensive estate plan much sooner rather than later.