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

As an Illinois estate planning attorney, I often encounter individuals who are uncertain about the consequences of passing away without a will. In this post, we will explore what happens if you die without a will in Illinois, a situation known as dying intestate. Understanding the implications of intestacy laws is crucial for protecting your loved ones and ensuring your assets are distributed in accordance with your wishes. Whether you’re just starting your estate planning journey or considering updating an existing plan, grasping the ramifications of dying without a will is essential.

What Are Intestacy Laws in Illinois?

Intestacy refers to the situation where someone dies without a valid will. In the absence of a will, the distribution of the deceased person’s assets is governed by intestacy laws, which vary by state. In Illinois, these laws determine how your assets will be distributed among your surviving relatives.

Illinois intestacy laws typically prioritize the deceased person’s closest living relatives, such as spouses, children, parents, and siblings, in the distribution of assets. The specific distribution scheme can vary based on your family structure and whether you have a surviving spouse or children.

If you die without a will in Illinois and leave behind a spouse and children, the distribution of assets depends on whether the children are from the current marriage or previous relationships. The surviving spouse is typically entitled to a portion of the estate, while the children may receive the remaining assets.

What are the Consequences of Dying Intestate in Illinois?

Dying without a will means relinquishing control over how your assets are distributed. Intestacy laws provide a default distribution plan, which may not align with your specific wishes or account for unique family circumstances.

Without a will, you lose the opportunity to make discretionary bequests to individuals or charitable organizations that are important to you. Intestacy laws distribute assets based on a predetermined formula, often overlooking personal connections and philanthropic intentions.

Passing away without a will can lead to uncertainty and potential disputes among family members. In the absence of your clear instructions, disagreements may arise, and the distribution process can become complicated, straining relationships among surviving relatives.

If you have minor children and die without a will, the court will appoint a guardian based on the best interests of the children. This decision may not align with your desires or the person you would have chosen to care for your children.

Why Is Creating a Will Important?

Creating a will allows you to retain control over the distribution of your assets and ensure your wishes are respected. With a will in place, you have the power to designate beneficiaries, specify bequests, and even address unique family dynamics.

A will allows you to appoint a guardian for your minor children, ensuring they are raised by someone you trust and in line with your values and beliefs. This proactive step provides peace of mind and protects your children’s future.

By creating a will, you reduce the risk of potential complications and disputes among family members. Your clear instructions minimize uncertainty and provide a roadmap for asset distribution, sparing your loved ones unnecessary stress during an already challenging time.


Understanding what happens if you die without a will is crucial for protecting your loved ones and ensuring your assets are distributed according to your wishes. Intestacy laws in Illinois dictate the default distribution scheme, which may not align with your intentions or unique family circumstances. As an Illinois estate planning attorney, I strongly encourage everyone to create a comprehensive will to retain control, minimize potential conflicts, and provide guidance for their loved ones. By consulting with a qualified professional, you can navigate the estate planning process and craft a will that safeguards your legacy and protects your family’s future. Remember, taking proactive steps today ensures that your final wishes are honored and that your loved ones are provided for, even in your absence.