What happens if I don't have an estate plan?

A court will appoint a guardian for any minor children.  The court will select among your friends and family members who come forward to volunteer as guardian.  The court will select a guardian without any knowledge of what your preference would have been.  With an estate plan, you can nominate a guardian and the court will almost always select the person you choose.

Without an estate plan, your assets will be distributed according to state laws.  Any property you own jointly goes to the joint owner.  Any property in an account with a beneficiary (even if the beneficiary designations are outdated) goes to the named beneficiaries.  Under Illinois law, all other property goes one-half to the surviving spouse and one-half to your children.  That means, if you have a cash account held in your name and your child is 18, one half of that account will go to your child to do with as he/she pleases.

Without an estate plan, any property you leave for your children will be distributed to them outright.  If the child is under 18, the property goes to the guardian to hold for the child and then to the child when the child turns 18.  At 18, the child can do whatever he/she wants with the money.  With an estate plan, you can protect the child and the
assets by giving the assets to the child in a trust.

If you become incapacitated and don’t have an estate plan in place, a guardian would have to be appointed by a court in order to sell or access any of your individual assets.