Nine states in the US that are considered community property states, and Illinois is not one of them. Instead, Illinois is a Common law state. Because of this, the laws that govern how assets and debt are divided upon divorce or death will follow common law.
A community property state recognizes that everything acquired during the marriage belongs to both people equally. This includes assets and debt. California is a community property state – so this means that if a couple in California divorces, they must equally split all property and all debt. No matter who purchased what.
Illinois is a common-law state. This allows spouses to own property individually. It gives partners the ability to keep certain assets or debts as their own. In Illinois, you can own property that is strictly yours, as long as it is only your name on the title. This also means that if your spouse passes away and they have debt in their name only – you may not be responsible for paying it off.
Passing away without a will is called dying ‘intestate’. In Illinois, if one spouse dies, Illinois law follows intestate laws, and the spouse receives half of the property, not automatically receiving all of it. It depends on if there are children, grandchildren, you were married… and so on.
Dying without a will means the estate must pass through probate court, and this could cost time and money for your loved ones left behind. You don’t want to work hard all your life only to have the courts decide who receives your belongings.
Setting up an estate plan does not have to be difficult. You can begin with only a will or trust, a power of attorney and a health care directive. That’s a great start to protect you and your loved ones. An experienced estate planning attorney can establish an estate plan customized to you, your lifestyle and your family.
Do you have questions about estate laws in Illinois? Our experienced estate and probate attorneys can advise you on the best options to protect your assets and loved ones. To talk to an attorney, contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group at 630-864-5835.
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