Do Children Always Inherit? Ask a Probate Lawyer in Chicago What Could Happen If You Didn’t Leave a Will

by | Feb 27, 2017 | General


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Today’s families are just as likely to be “his, hers and ours” as simply “ours”. Some couples have children and never marry. Every family is unique, with its own strengths and challenges. If one spouse or partner passes without leaving a will, the other will probably need to retain a probate lawyer in Chicago to sort everything out.

Intestate Succession

When someone dies without a will, they are intestate. Illinois law specifies who will inherit those assets that must go through probate.

  • Some assets, such as insurance policies, property in a living trust and property co-owned with someone else pass directly to the beneficiary or co-owner.
  • Assets owned solely by the deceased, such as real estate or a brokerage account in only their name, will pass to heirs as specified by Illinois law.

Unmarried Couples

Illinois does not recognize common law marriages unless the common law marriage was declared in a state that allows them. In any other circumstance, Illinois doesn’t consider a couple married unless they have a license, even if they have children and live together.

Example: Bob and Alice are not married. They have two children, Alice’s child from her ex and Bob and Alice’s biological child. Bob loves and cares for both children equally. Bob dies, leaving a home owned jointly with Alice and a $500,000 bank account in his name alone. Bob is named as his child’s father on the birth certificate.

Alice inherits the home because she’s the co-owner. Bob’s child with Alice inherits the $500,000 bank account. Alice’s child (Bob’s stepchild) inherits nothing. If Bob had been the sole owner of the home, Alice would have inherited nothing.

Children’s Rights

Children’s inheritance rights can become very complicated when there isn’t a will.

Under Illinois law, children who would inherit if their parent dies without a will would be:

  • Children born to a married couple
  • Acknowledged or proven biological children born outside of marriage
  • Legally adopted children
  • Children conceived, but not born before the acknowledged parent’s death

These children would NOT inherit if there was no will:

  • Stepchildren or foster children who were not legally adopted
  • Children born outside of marriage without established paternity
  • Children placed for adoption and legally adopted by others

Estate planning, including writing a will, is a gift passed on to those you love. To speak to an experienced probate lawyer in Chicago, contact Starr Bejgiert Zink & Rowells. Call today for a free initial consultation.