Many people in Illinois die intestate, meaning they never made out a will. Many more are partially testate, with a will in which only a part of their assets are covered. In these cases, the laws of intestate succession fall into place.
Estate administration is the process of totaling the assets and making sure the deceased person’s heirs receive their due share. The word estate here refers to assets — money and property that are eligible to undergo the probate process.
When There Is No Will
People who die intestate have no control over who gets what and how much. Illinois probate law requires that after all debts and claims against the estate are paid, the assets must be divided among family members.
If the deceased wanted to leave something to a different relative, a friend or an employee, the specifics must be included in a valid will or those people will get nothing.
When there is no will, an administrator is appointed by the probate judge. In Illinois, there is an order of preference for these appointments. The surviving spouse or domestic partner, if any, is usually the first choice. The oldest living child is next, followed by the oldest living sibling. The court may appoint more than one administrator.
Whoever is appointed must swear out a surety bond. This ensures that the administrator will disperse the assets according to law. If no one is able or willing to serve, the court appoints a public administrator.
What Does An Administrator Do?
The administrator inventories the probate-eligible assets and assesses their value. He or she contacts anyone to whom the deceased owed money so that they can file claims against the estate. If anyone owed money to the deceased, the administrator must pursue that as well.
If the total value of the assets is below $100,000 and there is no real estate, a small estate affidavit is filed with the court. The probate process ends at that point and the assets can be transferred to the heirs.
By Illinois law, a surviving spouse with no children gets everything. If there are children, the spouse receives half the assets. The other half is divided equally among the children. If the couple owned property in joint tenancy with right of survivorship, the surviving spouse will have that property. If the spouse is not living, the property goes to the children. There are more rules to cover different types of family situations. This is called intestate succession.
What About A Partial Will?
When the deceased left a will that covered some but not all of his assets, the estate administration procedure is much the same. The assets that are not covered in the will are inventoried and divided among family members. This is partial intestacy. Situations like these often result in the will being contested by one or more family members, and the process can become dragged out and quite nasty. Partial intestacy can be avoided by putting a residuary clause in the will, covering all assets not specifically mentioned and naming the person or people who should receive them.