Why Lack of a Will Almost Guarantees a Contested Estate

As estate planning lawyers, we know that the last thing anyone wants is a contested estate. Illinois, like every other state in the nation, has its own set of intestate succession laws, which dictate how someone’s property will be distributed upon his or her death if there is no estate plan in place. Generally, under intestate succession laws, only spouses and blood relatives can inherit a decedent’s assets, meaning that friends and charities are almost always out of luck.

It’s important to note that just because a person doesn’t have a will, does not mean that his or her loved ones can’t contest a court’s decision on how a decedent’s assets will be distributed. In fact, not having a will is one of the best ways to ensure that someone will, in fact, contest an estate. To learn more about protecting your own property, please reach out to our experienced estate planning attorneys in Chicago today.

Laws of Intestate Succession in Illinois

When a decedent doesn’t have a will, his or her assets will be distributed in accordance with the laws of intestate succession. Under these rules, who gets which assets will depend on whether the deceased has a surviving spouse, child, parent, or sibling. If, for instance, someone did not have children, but did not have a spouse, then his or her spouse will receive the entirety of the decedent’s estate.

Someone with a surviving spouse and at least one child can, on the other hand, expect that his or her property will be divided 50/50 between the spouse and the children. The assets of someone with no spouse or children, but who has surviving parents or siblings, on the other hand, will be inherited by those individuals in individual shares. Unfortunately, these rules don’t leave provisions for those with other types of strong relationships, including unmarried partners.

Conflicts Between Heirs

Just because Illinois probate courts are directed to follow certain rules when distributing a decedent’s assets does not mean that there will be no conflict between potential heirs. In fact, it is much more likely that a person will contest an estate when there is no will in place, as the loved ones of the deceased may legitimately believe that their relative wanted something different. Judges are also more likely to be convinced to award assets to a claimant, as intestate laws often disinherit legitimate beneficiaries.

However, only potential heirs can contest an estate. This includes spouses, children, and dependents. To succeed, these claimants will need to present a convincing case to the courts as to why they should receive additional assets from an estate. Judges will, in turn, take a number of factors into account when making these decisions, including the claimant’s relationship with the deceased, the claimant’s financial needs, and whether the claimant was dependent on the testator.

Call Today for Help with a Contested Estate

If you are concerned that your own estate will be contested upon your death and want to ensure that your loved ones are provided for, please call 847-325-5559 and speak with one of the dedicated estate planning lawyers at Orlowsky & Wilson, Ltd. Attorneys at Law today.

Updated as of July 2019
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