What If I Die Without a Will? Understanding Intestacy Laws in Illinois

Many individuals overlook the importance of creating a last will and testament, assuming that their assets will be distributed according to their desires upon their passing. However, dying without a will, also known as dying intestate, can lead to complications and unintended consequences. As an Illinois estate planning attorney, I understand the impact of intestacy laws on estate distribution. In this blog post, I’ll explain what happens if you die without a will in Illinois, shed light on the distribution of assets, and emphasize the importance of creating a will to ensure your final wishes are honored.

Intestacy Laws and Distribution of Assets

When someone dies without a will, the distribution of their assets is governed by intestacy laws. These laws vary from state to state, including Illinois, and dictate how the deceased person’s estate will be divided among surviving family members. In Illinois, the intestacy laws prioritize spouses, children, parents, and other close relatives as potential heirs.

What Are the Consequences of Dying Without a Will?

  1. Loss of Control: Dying intestate means relinquishing control over how your assets will be distributed. The court follows a predetermined distribution scheme, which may not align with your wishes or the unique circumstances of your family.
  2. Delayed Distribution: Without a will, the probate process can be more complex and time-consuming, resulting in delayed distribution of assets to your loved ones.
  3. Potential Family Disputes: Intestacy can lead to disputes among family members over the distribution of assets, causing unnecessary stress, strain, and potential legal battles.

Why Is Creating a Will Important?

A will ensures your wishes are honored. Creating a will allows you to clearly express your final wishes regarding the distribution of your assets, guardianship of minor children, and other important matters. It ensures that your intentions are followed, giving you peace of mind.

  1. Appointing an Executor: A will enables you to appoint an executor who will be responsible for administering your estate, handling paperwork, and ensuring your final wishes are carried out effectively.
  2. Protecting Loved Ones: By creating a will, you can provide for your loved ones financially, designate guardians for minor children, and even establish trusts to protect assets for future generations.

How to Create a Last Will and Testament in Illinois?

  1. Seek Professional Assistance: Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney, like Robert Schaller, who can guide you through the process of creating a will that is legally valid and aligned with your intentions. They will ensure compliance with Illinois laws and help you address any specific concerns or considerations.
  2. Inventory and Determine Your Assets: Take stock of your assets, including bank accounts, investments, real estate, personal property, and any other valuables. This inventory will inform the distribution plan outlined in your will.
  3. Appoint an Executor: Choose a trusted individual to serve as the executor of your estate. Discuss this decision with the prospective executor to ensure their willingness and suitability for the role.
  4. Designate Beneficiaries: Specify the beneficiaries who will inherit your assets. Be clear and concise in identifying each beneficiary, and consider any contingencies in case a beneficiary predeceases you.
  5. Guardianship for Minor Children: If you have minor children, designate a guardian(s) who will assume responsibility for their care and upbringing.
  6. Consult on Estate Planning Tools: Discuss additional estate planning tools with your attorney, such as trusts or powers of attorney, to ensure a comprehensive plan that meets your specific needs and goals.
  7. Sign and Execute Your Will: Sign your will in the presence of witnesses, adhering to the legal requirements of Illinois. The witnesses must be impartial and not be beneficiaries or related to beneficiaries.
  8. Periodic Review and Updates: Regularly review your will to ensure it remains up-to-date and aligned with your current wishes. Make updates as necessary, especially after significant life events, such as marriages, divorces, births, or deaths.


Dying without a will can have significant implications for the distribution of your assets and the well-being of your loved ones. By understanding the consequences of intestacy laws in Illinois and the importance of creating a will, you can take proactive steps to ensure your final wishes are honored and your estate is handled according to your intentions. Consult with an experienced Illinois estate planning attorney to create a legally valid will that reflects your desires and provides clarity and peace of mind for you and your family. Start the process today to safeguard your legacy and protect your loved ones’ financial well-being.