What is a will?
A will, also known as a last will and testament, dictates your last wishes and names the beneficiaries to your property. If you are a parent of minors, it would also name guardians, should both parents die. It is a public document and will be reviewed by a judge in probate court.
How does it work?
An attorney will represent your estate before a judge in probate court. The judge has three jobs:
- Review the will to make sure it was executed properly.
- Authorize and legally empower the person to execute the directions of the will (the executor whom you named in the will).
- Make sure that the executor did a good job of executing the will.
The executor has a fiduciary duty to execute the will properly.
What happens if you die without one?
If you die without a will, your assets are subject to the state’s intestacy laws. In Illinois, some of these laws include:
- If you have children but not a spouse, the children inherit everything
- In this case, the state would choose a legal guardian for your minor children
- If you have a spouse but no children, the spouse inherits everything
- If you have both a spouse and children, the spouse gets half of the estate and the children share the other half of the estate
- If you have neither a spouse or children, your parents and siblings will be your “heirs at law”.
- Assets are equally shared
- If only one parent is alive, they get a “double share”
- Half siblings are treated the same as full siblings
This information is not intended to be a substitute for individualized legal advice. Please consult your legal advisor regarding your specific situation.
Source: Pluymert, MacDonald, Hargrove & Lee, LTD.