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Rules of Descent & Distribution in Illinois (Intestacy)

Dying Without a Will

Many people assume that if you die without a will, your property passes to the state. This is false. If you die without a will, or if your will is found to be invalid, you are deemed to have died intestate (without a valid will). Your intestate property, whether real or personal, will then be distributed as follows:
1. If spouse and descendants survive:
​ 1/2 of the estate to spouse, and
1/2 of the estate to descendants, per stirpes.

2. If only descendants survive: 
​ the entire estate to descendants, per stirpes.

3. If only spouse survives: 
​ the entire estate to surviving spouse.

4. ​​If no spouse or descendants survive, but a parent, brother, sister or descendants of a parent, brother or sister survive
​ the entire estate to the parents, brothers and sisters of the decedent in equal shares, with the descendants of a deceased brother or sister receiving the portion which the deceased brother or sister would have taken if living, per stirpes. If only one parent survives, the surviving parent receives two shares of the estate.

​5. If only grandparent(s) or descendants of grandparent(s) survive:
1/2 of the estate to maternal grandparent(s) or to their descendants per stirpes, and
1/2 of the estate to paternal grandparent(s) or to their descendants per stirpes.
If only one side survives, then all to the surviving side.

6. If only great-grandparent(s) or descendants of great-grandparent(s) survive:
1/2 of the estate to maternal great-grandparents or to their descendants per stirpes, and
1/2 of the estate to paternal great-grandparents or to their descendants per stirpes.
If only one side survives, then all to the surviving side.

7. If none of the above survive: 
the entire estate in equal shares to the nearest kindred of the decedent in equal degree without representation.

8. If no known kindred survives: 
​ the real estate escheats to the county in which it is located; the personal estate physically located within this State and the personal estate physically located or held outside this State which is the subject of ancillary administration of an estate being administered within this State escheats to the county of which the decedent was a resident, or, if the decedent was not a resident of this State, to the county in which it is located; all other personal property of the decedent of every class and character, wherever situate, or the proceeds thereof, shall escheat to this State and be delivered to the State Treasurer pursuant to the Uniform Disposition of Unclaimed Property Act.

​There is no distinction between the kindred of the whole and the half blood.

Ancillary Administration of an Estate: Any proceeding in another state or country relating to the settlement of a decedent’s estate, whether testate or intestate. The proceedings by which the assets of a decedent are inventoried and appraised, the decedent’s debts are determined and paid, the amount of taxes calculated and paid, and the remaining assets distributed to the persons or entities entitled to them either by the terms of the decedent’s Will or by the laws of intestacy.

Decedent: A deceased person, usually the person whose estate is subject to administration.Descendants: Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren. See “Issue.”

Escheat: The passing of property to the state when a decedent dies without a Will disposing of the decedent’s property and without known heirs.

Estate: All real and personal property left by a decedent in which he or she had a right or interest.

Intestate: Usually refers to a decedent who died without leaving a valid Will; partial intestacy occurs when the Will does not dispose of all of the estate.

Intestate Succession: Succeeding to or receiving property from a decedent as an heir, by virtue of statutes of descent and distribution rather than by Will.

Kindred: Those related by blood, as distinguished from those related only by marriage. See “Next of Kin.”

Maternal: Pertaining to the mother’s side of the family.

​Paternal: Pertaining to the father’s side of the family.

Per Stirpes: By representation. A method of dividing an estate by which a class or group of distributees takes the share to which the group’s deceased ancestor would have been entitled, deriving the group’s right as representatives of the deceased ancestor and not as so many individuals. (For example, if you had two children, A and B, and A died before you did but left two children, the children of A would receive the same portion as would have been received by A if he had been alive, rather than the property being split into three equal parts between B and A’s two children.) See “Right of Representation.”

Spouse: A married person; husband or wife.