For many people, even beginning the conversation about estate planning can be difficult. It is not easy to confront the fact that you will not live forever and drafting a will, trust, and other estate planning documents forces you to look beyond the end of your life. As an estate planning attorney with decades of experience, I truly understand the challenges involved in the process, but I also recognize how crucial it is to have a plan in place. If you die without having executed a will, there is a good chance that most of your assets will be subject to the state’s intestate succession laws.
What is “Intestate?”
An asset is considered intestate if there is no specific direction for its disposition in the event of its owner’s death. Any property that is jointly owned is generally not considered intestate, as ownership will typically transfer to the co-owner or co-owners. Similarly, any account with a listed beneficiary or transfer-on-death provision would not be intestate. The listed beneficiaries would be entitled to the contents of such accounts or property upon your death. If, however, an asset is not jointly owned and there are no legally-enforceable directions for how the asset is to be handled when you die, it will be allocated as intestate property.
The Probate Act of 1975 contains the provisions for intestate succession that are to be used throughout the state of Illinois. How your intestate property will be divided depends on whether or not you have a surviving spouse, children, and other relatives. The law, however, can quickly become complicated, as it attempts to address a large number of possible family scenarios.
If you die and leave behind children but no spouse, your children will split your intestate property. Leaving a spouse but no children means that your spouse will inherit everything. If you are survived by a spouse and children, your spouse will receive half of your intestate property and the children will receive the other half. If you leave neither a spouse nor children, your parents and siblings, if applicable, will receive shares of your property.
Preventing Potential Problems
While the law does attempt to provide succession guidelines for those without an estate plan, the results can get very messy. As you can probably imagine, disputes between children are not uncommon, especially if you have children from different relationships. There is also no way for a probate court to fully understand the dynamics of your family and to allocate intestate property accordingly.
You have the power to prevent such problems. By working closely with an experienced Naperville estate planning lawyer, you can draft a will that eliminates the need for intestate succession in your case. Contact The Gierach Law Firm today to learn more and to schedule a confidential consultation. Our team is here to help you protect your family’s future.