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IL estate lawyerAfter a person dies, issues related to their estate will be handled through a legal process known as probate. If the person had a last will and testament, the executor of their estate will file their will in probate court, take a complete inventory of their assets, pay taxes and expenses on behalf of the estate, and distribute the estate’s assets to the person’s beneficiaries. However, in cases in which a person died without a will, their family members or other heirs may be unsure about how these matters will be addressed.

Intestate Succession

The probate process will usually be required whether a person had a will or not. In cases where the deceased person did not have a will, someone will need to be appointed as the representative of the estate. This may be a family member or another person who was close to the decedent, and they may ask to be appointed by the probate court that is handling the case. The estate representative will carry out the same duties as a person who was named as an executor in a will.

Without a will that provides instructions for the distribution of a person’s assets, an estate representative will need to follow the applicable laws, which are known as the laws of intestate succession. The laws in Illinois state that a person’s assets will be divided equally between their spouse and children. That is, the surviving spouse will receive half of the estate, and the other half will be equally divided among the person’s children. If any of their children have died, their share of the estate will go to their own children or descendants.

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IL probate lawyerFollowing a person’s death, the terms of their last will and testament will detail how their assets should be distributed to their family members or other beneficiaries. However, there are some situations where a person’s heirs or those who expect to inherit property may be unhappy about the decisions made in a will. During the probate process, certain parties may be able to contest a person’s will. For those who wish to challenge a will or executors who need to respond to this type of challenge, it is important to understand when and how a will may be contested.

Grounds for Contesting a Will

To contest a will, a person must be an “interested party,” meaning that they are a beneficiary named in the will or a person who would be eligible to inherit property if a person did not have a valid will in place. Will contests must be filed within six months after a will was filed in probate court.

While a person’s heirs or loved ones who believe that they should inherit certain assets may disagree with the decisions about how the person’s property will be distributed to their beneficiaries, this is generally not a valid reason to contest a will. A challenge will be based on claims that the will that was filed in probate court was invalid. Grounds for contesting the validity of a will include:

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IL estate lawyerWriting your own will can seem like an intimidating process. Before starting, it is important to be fully aware of the purpose of the will, the will’s consequences, and the legal requirements that must be met. Take some time to study the needed steps required to fulfill your wishes after death and make the best decisions for yourself.

What Is the Purpose of a Will?

After death, a will allows you to control the distribution of your assets. Included in the will is the nomination of a trusted executor who will carry this distribution task out for you. Among other duties, this executor will also appoint a guardian to any minor children you may have. In essence, wills are designed to protect your family and your property. The Illinois state “intestacy” laws will come into effect if you do not create a will before you pass. Intestacy laws distribute your assets to your closest relatives.

What Legal Requirements Must Be Met for Your Will to Be Valid?

There are two main requirements for your will to be legal in the state of Illinois.

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Wheaton wills and trusts lawyersOf all the things that a parent must do, creating an estate plan that names a guardian for their children is, by far, one of the most difficult. That is because it not only requires the parent to consider the possibility of their death, it also requires the them to determine who may be willing, able, and best-suited to raise their child in their absence. Learn more about choosing a guardian to raise your children if a tragedy occurs, and discover how a seasoned estate planning lawyer can assist you with the process. 

Why Choosing a Guardian is Important 

Although most people know that life is unpredictable, they often want to avoid considering their own mortality - and that includes drafting estate planning documents like wills and guardianship papers. Other people simply get lost in their day-to-day lives and simply put off estate planning until “tomorrow.” Regardless of the reason for their delay, parents are highly encouraged to consider the potentially devastating consequences for their children. 

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