Understanding Inheritance Law Illinois - 23 Legal

Understanding Inheritance Law in Illinois

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Have you recently lost someone close to you? First, we’d like to say that after so many years of service to the community, 23 Legal truly understands how difficult this time can be for you and your family.
When someone passes away, their beneficiaries (spouse, children, or next of kin) will likely receive their worldly belongings based on a final testament or inheritance. If a will does not exist upon their death, then each state has a specific set of laws to regulate how the deceased’s assets are divided among living relatives.
Or are you on the other side of the spectrum, doing your best to age responsibly and thinking ahead? While this may seem like a dark, daunting topic, we commend you for being proactive in making a plan now for when you pass on. It’s helpful for your own peace of mind and for your loved ones.
Don’t have a living will set up yet? No worries! Learn more about the basics of estate planning on our blog to get started.
Even under normal circumstances, the death of a family member can be emotionally challenging. Without the aid and legal direction of a living will, things can become even more difficult and tricky.
Understanding Illinois inheritance laws may help to simplify challenging times in your life or for your loved ones in the future. With Attorney Ben Weaver’s expertise, navigating this difficult time will become much more manageable. Whether you’re dealing with a recent death or preparing for the future, you’re not in this alone!

23 Legal shares a few common circumstances and examples of how Illinois inheritance law may relate to your situation…


The Illinois probate process is a court-supervised legal procedure that is sometimes (but not always) required after someone dies. If the person had no spouse or children, then their property goes to their following closest surviving relatives:

  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Parents
  • Cousins

Generally, when a person dies without a will, family members will have to appoint a member to become the executor of the deceased property. If the family can not select a person to be the executor, then the court will choose. Without a will, the Illinois court system can help families share all assets of the deceased.

NOLO shares the purpose of a probate: “To clarify who inherits the deceased person’s property and make sure valid debts and taxes are paid. Probate is handled by the deceased person’s executor, who must:

  • prove in court that a deceased person’s will is valid (usually a routine matter)
  • identify and inventory the deceased person’s assets
  • have those assets appraised
  • pay debts and taxes, and
  • distribute the remaining property as the will (or if there’s no will, state law) directs.”
Estate Division
Are there assets of the deceased that did not get legally documented in their will?

This means they weren’t declared for any specific member within the estate plan. When these assets aren’t passed through a will, they can’t be affected by an inheritance law. What does that mean for someone who feels an emotional attachment to a couch or a painting that once belonged to their dear old grandfather? And they didn’t mark this piece of property to be left specifically for them upon their passing?

Well, if the property isn’t legally claimed through the aid of legal estate documents like a will, then the assets can be shared by an approved estate executor or sold at an auction held by the family, or even the bank to pay off debts from the deceased. Situations like this are why it’s essential to have a knowledgeable attorney like Ben Weaver on your side!

Start the process of planning for the future by protecting your assets…

Are you not fully ready to establish an entire living will? That’s ok, it doesn’t all need to be decided at once. A living will can be revised as often as you need to over the years. But we do recommend starting as soon as possible!

A person should at the very least legally assign their power of attorney or estate executor if the unfortunate were to occur before their will was properly completed. Not sure how appointing a loved one or your attorney as a power of attorney can protect you while you are living or deceased? Choose the right power of attorney for you with our guide to creating a living will.

Estate Tax

In Illinois, the federal government and the state can collect estate tax (sometimes called a “death tax”) from a deceased person. An estate tax is imposed on property value when a person dies before any property is inherited. Is there an inheritance tax?

Smart Asset shares: “Don’t confuse the estate tax with the inheritance tax, which is a separate tax some states levy on recipients of an inheritance after it has been passed on. There is no inheritance tax in Illinois. The inheritance tax of other states could apply to you, though. In Kentucky, for instance, inheritance tax must be paid on any property inherited in the state, even if the heir doesn’t live there.”

Work with an attorney to fully grasp the amount of tax that will be taken out. Hiring an attorney who specializes in estate planning will make a world of difference for any family going through the probate process and the financial division of an inheritance.

Understanding Inheritance Law Illinois - 23 Legal
Intestacy Laws

When an individual dies without a will or without a valid will, it is called intestate. How do you know if a will is valid or not? For a will to be valid in Illinois, the person must be at least 18 years old, be of “sound mind”, and have the mental capacity to understand their actions. The will must also be notarized and signed by witnesses.

“It is not ideal to die without a will if you care about estate planning or deciding where your assets will end up after your death. The court then has to follow intestate succession laws to determine who inherits your assets, and what share they get.” Smart Asset

Not sure what a living will can protect? Here’s a list of the many practical aspects of life that can be planned:

  • Limiting estate taxes by setting up trust accounts in the name of beneficiaries
  • Establishing a guardian for living dependents
  • Naming an executor of the estate to oversee the terms of the will
  • Creating/updating beneficiaries on plans such as life insurance, IRAs, and 401(k)s
  • Setting up funeral arrangements
  • Establishing annual gifting to qualified charitable and non-profit organizations to reduce the taxable estate
  • Setting up a (POA) to direct other assets and investments.

This document states what happens to a person’s belongings when they die or become incapacitated. When there is an invalid will or lack of one-period, financial accounts like life insurance, bank accounts, and 401k have to be legally split. Determining how this is done fairly without the aid of a binding will can cause lots of legal strife.

Especially if a member of the family doesn’t agree with the appointed estate executor. To prevent turmoil within the family, it’s always wise to seek a trusted real estate attorney like Ben Weaver.

Elder Estate Planning
Protect your aging loved ones before they pass…

As we get to a particular stage in adulthood, a strange turn of events occurs. We begin to be responsible for those who were once responsible for us. Our parents, who spent a lifetime caring for our every need, begin to require the assistance of their loved ones. This process can be emotional, and rightly so. But, while taxing and perplexing, this experience can be less stressful with the aid of a trusted attorney, such as Ben Weaver, guiding you.

An estate attorney does much more than simply creating wills. For example, we work in the area of elder law. Elder law frequently deals with the long-term care of a parent. We want to ensure that your parents or a surviving parent are taken care of in the years ahead. This too is accomplished by estate planning to safeguard their assets by placing those resources in a living trust. Learn how 23 Legal can come in handy…

Discussing how to divide your estate in the future, or the estate of a recently deceased loved one, can feel heavy – and that’s completely understandable. No one likes to think about their own death or deal with legalities while grieving.
However, the task of creating an estate plan and living will is the best way to protect yourself in the future and show your family how much you care about them. Many people think: I don’t have enough assets to require an estate plan, or I’m not old enough to need a will. That’s not true! You don’t have to be a millionaire or 50 + to create an estate plan. You just need the desire to help the ones you leave behind with navigating legal challenges after you have passed on. Make their experience as smooth as possible on your end.
Do you have questions about handling your recently deceased loved one’s estate or inheritance? Would you like us to help clarify specifications in their will? Contact compassionate and caring attorney Ben Weaver to learn more about Illinois state laws associated with inheritances.
As you can see, inheritance law is complex and can be confusing. That’s why it’s best to seek legal guidance from 23 Legal. We’re here for you in the good times and during the hardships.

Please feel free to contact us for assistance or with any questions you have. Click here to read 5-star client reviews!

Why Choose 23 Legal

23 Legal offers Real Estate and Estate Planning legal services to individuals, families, community associations and small business owners throughout Chicagoland. We know how intimidating “the law” can be. In fact, when most people think of law offices, they think of stuffy leather chairs, huge wooden desks and pompous lawyers who charge outrageous fees. That’s not us! We believe in 1-to-1; the same lawyer should work with you all the way through. Whether you have an estate planning issue, family trust concern, or you have a legal problem in regard to a new home, business, real estate or remodel, you need a lawyer who cares. That’s where Ben comes in! We are great listeners; more than that, we are lawyers who believe that our clients always come first.

Attorney Ben Weaver is an expert in Real Estate Law for Arlington Heights, Prospect Heights, Mount Prospect, Des Plaines, Glenview, Park Ridge, Wheeling and the surrounding communities.

Contact Ben Weaver for Assistance with Estate Planning and Illinois Inheritance Law!

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