After a lifetime of hard work and planning, most Illinois residents look forward to enjoying their retirement years and passing on their wealth to their loved ones. One of the most effective ways to ensure that one’s assets and money go to the parties and entities of the individual’s choosing is to prepare an estate plan. An estate plan is a collection of legally enforceable documents that direct particular items of property and other assets to be distributed according to provisions in wills, trusts, and other devices.

From the outside, estate planning can look difficult and confusing, and many people elect not to start estate planning when they are young. However, an early start to the process can help a person prioritize their wishes and protect their wealth in the event they experience unexpected live changes. A knowledgeable estate planning attorney can help them get started.

When a person dies without an estate plan, their property and assets are subject to the laws of intestacy. In Illinois, that means that after all the decedent’s debts and obligations were paid, their spouse and children would receive the balance of their estate. In the event the decedent had either no spouse or no kids, the other would receive all of the estate.

If a person passed without children or a spouse, their parents and siblings would be next to receive proceeds from their estate. The laws of intestacy generally direct a decedent’s estate to their closest surviving relatives and so on until it is distributed. If no relative can be found, a person’s assets are given to the state of Illinois.

While some individuals may not mind having their estates pass through the state’s intestacy laws, others may have specific plans for how and to whom it should be given. This post does not provide any legal advice, and all readers with further estate planning questions should contact their estate planning lawyers.