Illinois Intestate Succession Rules

intestate succession rules, Illinois Estate Planning AttorneyWhat happens to your assets and property if you die without a will? Every state's laws have a different answer to that question. In Illinois, the law that covers "intestate succession" is the Probate Act of 1975.

If you die without a will in Illinois, then the law covers any assets that you own which do not come under one of the following:

  • Life insurance policy proceeds;
  • Retirement accounts;
  • Payable-on-Death (POD) bank accounts;
  • Securities or stocks which are in a transfer-on-death (TOD) account;
  • Property held on a TOD deed;
  • Property owned with another individual(s) in a tenancy by the entirety or a joint tenancy; and
  • Property or assets placed in a living trust.

Without a will, any other assets would go to your closest relatives. Who those relatives are depends on who you have as relatives. For example, if you are not married but have children when you die, then your children will receive all of your assets. In addition to your biological children, Illinois law defines a legal child who is entitled to your estate as:

  • Any adopted child;
  • Any foster or stepchild;
  • Any child who was conceived but not born before your death;
  • Any child born outside of marriage who you accepted paternity for;
  • Any child you gave up for adoption where the child's adoption decree specifically states his or her right to inherit from your estate; and
  • Any grandchild who's parent (your child) died before you.

If you are married, but have no children or other descendants, then your spouse will receive all of your assets.

The more family you have, the more complicated it can get. If you do have a spouse and children or other descendants, then your spouse will get half of your assets and your children the other half.

If you pass away and you only have your parents as relatives, then they will receive your assets. If you only have siblings when you die, then your siblings will receive your property. If both your parents are alive and you have siblings, then each will receive an equal portion of your assets. However, if one of your parents has passed, then the surviving parent would receive a double portion of your assets.

No matter what the situation, it is clearly better to have a will in place when you die. Contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney to discuss drafting up a will and to answer any other estate planning questions you may have.

Keeping Living Wills Current

Illinois living will, DuPage County estate planning lawyerliving will is a document decided before death that prescribes the medical attention you choose in the event that you are unable to do so yourself. According to the Illinois General Assembly, the Living Will Act was passed to ensure that every state resident had the fundamental right to control the decisions related to his or her own medical care. This means that these decisions are not left to chance or to family in the event that sickness or other incapacitating factor makes the person unable to decide for himself.

Proponents of living wills say that these are matters of patient rights—physicians are not able to withhold or withdraw death-delaying procedures if a patient has signed a living will. For a living will to be valid, it needs to be signed by the patient (before he or she experienced the debilitating conditions) in the presence of a witness. The death-delaying procedures can include, but are not limited to:

  • Assisted ventilation; or
  • Intravenous feeding or medication; or
  • Blood transfusions; or
  • Artificial kidney treatments.

Determining a living will before a person becomes sick is essential, as discussing a person's last wishes when he or she is straddled with debilitating disease can be difficult and emotional. According to a recent article in The Guardian, however, a living will can sometimes be a negative thing for physicians. In certain cases, physicians can be backed into providing treatment far after a patient's body has ceased functioning because he or she signed a living will—which is sometimes decades old.

Extreme medical advances in recent decades allow physicians to keep a person alive far past the point of truly living. In the worst-case scenario, a living will can sometimes require physicians to perform harrowing and terrible procedures in order to honor a person's wishes—which perhaps he would no longer have chosen for himself. According to The Guardian, 70 percent of an average person's medical care costs are accumulated in the last six months of his or her life.

Living wills are important for anyone, regardless of medical history or socioeconomic status, because they allow a person to determine what he or she wants for his or her final days. Yet it is imperative that they be updated, reviewed, and revisited often, most beneficially in the presence of a legal professional. If you are ready to draft your living will or interested in learning more, do not go through it alone. Contact an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney today.


Health Care Wishes: The Importance of Putting it in Writing

living will, health care wishes, DuPage County estate planning attorneyAs much as we may not like to think about it, each birthday means we are getting older, and one day we will no longer be with our loved ones. But before that day comes, illness or injury may prevent us from expressing our health care wishes to our families, specifically in regards to what we want or do not want when it comes to medical treatment. Hence, it is important to take care of these issues before the need actually arises.

The following are suggested steps to take when it comes to planning for your future. A qualified estate planning attorney can help guide you through each step.

  • Should you become incapacitated, make sure you have advance directives in place so your family and medical providers know what your wishes are for medical treatment. A living will outlines exactly what medical care you wish to be taken and which care you would refuse. Medical treatments that you may want to address in your living will include antibiotics and other antiviral medications; comfort care; dialysis; mechanical ventilation; resuscitation; and tube feeding.
  • You should also have a health care power of attorney, also known as a health care proxy, drawn up. This document appoints someone to make medical decisions for you in the event you are not able to so yourself. This document is different than a regular power of attorney which only addresses financial matters.
  • Although it is important to share your wishes with your family, it is equally important to have a letter of instruction which specifically states what your wishes are, including any special requests or instructions for funeral arrangements and other matters. The information in this document should include all important contacts (including insurance companies, employers, etc.). It is also helpful to write down who you wish certain possessions you own to go to, even if this is covered in your will.

Several websites provide templates for the above documents; however, when it comes to end of life documents, different states have different laws. Not being aware of your state's current laws could cause an unfortunate legal issue for your family if these documents are not properly prepared. If you are ready to express your health care wishes in writing, an experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney can assist you and your family.