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What happens when there is no will?

Photo of Karen Lavin

It is always difficult to deal with the loss of a loved one. But a death in the family can be made worse when survivors find there is no guidance for how to preserve and share the assets of a family member's estate.

There are guidelines in the state of Illinois for how to treat the assets of people who die without a will (called "intestate" under Illinois law). The family has it best when a person takes time to plan his or her estate, preferably with legal counsel. An attorney can help determine the safest ways to disperse property and money.

Who is considered an heir to a person who died intestate?

Illinois probate courts will consider a decedent's family tree to determine who deserves property and assets from an estate. A surviving spouse with no children receives the entire estate after taxes and other deductions. A spouse with children will evenly split the estate with those children. Children of two deceased spouses will divide the estate equally amongst them.

Who is in charge of executing these standards?

The administrator of the estate of a person who died intestate is the person most closely related to the deceased. People who are equally closely related to the decedent may agree on which person becomes the administrator or defer to the court to make the decision.

Does any part of the estate go to the government?

Other than taxes and debts, the state does not collect a person's estate unless no other heirs can be identified. If this is the case, real estate and personal property will go to the county in which the decedent resided.

Source: FindLaw, "What Happens When Someone Dies Without Leaving a Will in Illinois?," accessed April 11, 2018

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