Understanding Inheritance Law in Illinois: An Essential Guide

understanding inheritance law

Navigating the complexities of inheritance law can be overwhelming, especially during times of emotional stress. In order to simplify some key aspects of inheritance law in Illinois, the following will provide essential information along with answers to common questions.

Basic Information About Inheritance Law in Illinois

Inheritance laws determine how a deceased person’s assets are distributed among heirs and beneficiaries. In Illinois, these laws are outlined in the Illinois Probate Act. Here are the fundamental aspects everyone should know:

Wills and Probate

  • Wills – A will is a legal document that states how a person’s assets should be distributed after their death. In Illinois, for a will to be valid, it must be in writing, signed by the testator (the person making the will), and witnessed by at least two credible witnesses.
  • Probate – This is the legal process through which a deceased person’s will is validated, and their estate is distributed. If a person dies without a will (intestate), the probate court will appoint an administrator to distribute the assets according to state law.

When There is No Will

If someone dies without a will in Illinois, their assets are distributed according to intestate succession laws. Here is a basic rundown:

  • Surviving spouse and descendants: The spouse gets half of the estate, and the descendants share the other half.
  • No descendants but a surviving spouse: The spouse inherits the entire estate.
  • No spouse or descendants: The estate goes to the deceased person’s parents and siblings.
  • No immediate family: The estate is distributed to more distant relatives according to a specified order of priority.

Common Questions About Inheritance Law in Illinois

How long does the probate process take in Illinois?

The duration of the probate process can vary widely. It typically takes six months to a year, but complex estates can take longer. The process includes validating the will, identifying and inventorying the deceased’s assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing the remaining assets.

Are there any assets that do not go through probate in Illinois?

Yes, according to Illinois inheritance law certain assets can bypass the probate process, including:

  • Jointly owned property: Automatically passes to the surviving owner.
  • Life insurance policies: Paid directly to named beneficiaries.
  • Retirement accounts: Distributed to designated beneficiaries.
  • Payable-on-death accounts: Transferred directly to the named beneficiaries.

 Can a will be contested in Illinois?

Yes, a will can be contested on several grounds, such as:

  • Lack of proper execution: The will was not signed or witnessed correctly.
  • Lack of testamentary capacity: The testator did not have the mental capacity to make the will.
  • Undue influence: The testator was coerced or manipulated into making the will.
  • Fraud: The will was forged or the testator was deceived.

What are the responsibilities of an executor in Illinois?

The executor, named in the will, has several duties, including:

  • Filing the will with the probate court.
  • Notifying heirs and creditors.
  • Managing the estate’s assets.
  • Paying the estate’s debts and taxes.
  • Distributing the remaining assets according to the will.

How can I avoid probate in Illinois?

There are several strategies to avoid probate, such as:

  • Creating a living trust: Assets in the trust are not subject to probate.
  • Joint ownership: Owning property jointly with rights of survivorship.
  • Beneficiary designations: Naming beneficiaries on retirement accounts, life insurance policies, and payable-on-death accounts.

Our Expert Team can Provide Peace of Mind

Understanding inheritance law in Illinois is crucial, whether it is to ensure that your own wishes are honored, to make sure loved ones are taken care of after your passing, or to help settle the estate of a loved one after they pass. Knowing the basics can help you make informed decisions, but working with an experienced estate attorney can definitely make the entire process easier. Illinois inheritance law is complex and the attorneys at Churchill, Quinn, Hamilton & Van Donselaar, Ltd have deep expertise in this area. We help to ensure each of our clients gets the personalized attention they need to develop the right estate plan for their needs, as well as assist those dealing with the death of a loved one. Reach out to our office at 847-223-1500 to schedule a consultation.