What happens if a person dies without a will?

When a person dies without a will, the state statute for the state of that person’s residence take over and direct the disposition of assets, which very likely may not be what the person would have wanted. In Illinois, for example, the estate of a married person with children who dies without a will passes one-half to the surviving spouse and one-half to the children, and if those children are minors, the latest their inheritances can legally be safeguarded is age 21. Creating a will, on the other hand, gives a person the opportunity to voice choices for executor and guardian and to establish some parameters and conditions around the distribution of assets such as holding those assets in trust until a child has attained a more fiscally responsible age.