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How is probate handled when there is no will?

A will is the most basic estate planning document available for Illinois residents. Unfortunately, it is not something that all adults have in place for when it is needed. When a loved one dies and does not have a will or other estate planning documents prepared, how will probate work?

There is nothing easy about losing a loved one. However, in the midst of one's grief, there is a need to handle that individual's estate. When it is found that there is no will or no preparations already in place, this can make the whole thing harder to bear. Probate will be necessary and it may take much longer than usual to get through, depending on the complexity of the deceased's assets.

When there is no will or other estate plan in place, a court will assign an individual to be the administrator of the estate. This individual will then be responsible for taking inventory of assets and making sure creditors and taxes are paid before anything can be distributed to heirs. Who is considered an heir? Generally:

  • If the individual was single and had no children, beneficiaries may be siblings or surviving parents.
  • If the individual was single with children, the children with get everything.
  • If the deceased was married but had no children, assets typically pass to the spouse, but they may also be split between the spouse and the decedent's parents and siblings.
  • If the deceased was married with children, assets typically are divided between the spouse and children.

These are just a few scenarios possible. Anyone who believes that he or she is entitled to receive a portion of an estate may file a claim in an Illinois probate court. Without a will, the court will have the final say in how an estate is ultimately distributed. Those who need help getting through the probate process can turn to legal counsel for assistance in order to make sure the estate is properly closed out and distributed fairly.

Source: FindLaw, "What Happens If You Die Without a Will?", Accessed on Oct. 18, 2017

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