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Will Basics

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:

  1. Review the will to make sure it was executed properly.
  2. Authorize and legally empower the person to execute the directions of the will (the executor whom you named in the will).
  3. 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.