Dying Without a Will or Trust: Who are Your Heirs-at-Law?
If you are reading this post, you’re probably thinking about what will happen to your assets when you die. Really, you should stop wondering and pick up the phone. Call your attorney. Set up a proper estate plan — whatever that may be for you. It could be as easy as a simple will or as complicated as a complex trust. There is no substitute for good advice and well-drafted documentation.
But if you are not ready to commit to estate planning yet, at least you should be aware of what will happen to your estate if you don’t do anything. The bottom line is, anything that is not transferred through beneficiary or co-ownership designations will be transferred to your heirs-at-law.
So who are your heirs-at-law in Illinois?
- If you’re married and you have no children, your heir-at-law is your spouse.
- If you’re married and you have children, your heirs-at-law are your spouse (50%), and your children (the other 50% is divided equally between them). If any one of your children has pre-deceased you, that child’s share will go to that child’s children, if any.
- If you’re not married and you have children, your heirs-at-law are your children (in equal shares). If any one of your children has pre-deceased you, that child’s share will go to that child’s children, if any.
- If you’re not married and you have no children, then your heirs-at-law are your parents and siblings (in equal shares). Note the following: (a) If one of your parents has pre-deceased you, the other parent will take the deceased parent’s share also; (b) If both of your parents have pre-deceased you, your siblings will be your only heirs-at-law (in equal shares); and (c) If one of your siblings has-predeceased you but had children, those children will take that sibling’s share.
- If you’re not married, have no children, your parents and siblings have pre-deceased your and your siblings did not leave any surviving children, then your heirs-at-law are traced through your father and mother. One-half will go to your father’s family, and the other half will go your mother’s family.
- If you have absolutely no relatives at all, guess who gets your estate? That’s right, it escheats to Illinois.
So what does this mean for you? Well, are you comfortable with the list above? And are you comfortable with your family having to jump through a bunch of hoops and spend a lot of money after you’re gone? If the answer to both of those questions is yes, then maybe you don’t do anything. But if the answer to either one of those questions is no, then you need to pick up the phone, meet with an attorney, and put together a proper plan for your family. You want to choose who inherits your hard-earned assets, instead of having the state choose for you. You also want to make sure your family is not subjected to financial strain, not to mention the sheer time-consuming hassle, of having to sort things out when you’re gone.