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What Are the Surviving Spouse’s Rights to Marital Property in Illinois?

In Illinois, survivorship marital property is a concept used to refer to property when one party in a marriage dies. All marital property does not automatically go to the surviving spouse. If an asset was co-owned, the remaining owner takes the rights to the property

Sadly, all marriages come to a close. Some end in divorce, but in other cases a marriage ends because one spouse passes away. When this tragic event occurs, there are laws in place that outline how the deceased spouse’s property is divided.

Marital Property When One Spouse Dies

Illinois is not a marital property state, it is an equitable property state. This means in the event of a divorce, property is divided based on what is fair when looking at each party’s contribution to the marriage.

However, marital property versus equitable property is not relevant when a spouse dies. These two things are in the section of Illinois’s statutes that cover divorce and separation. However, probate law is the section that covers what happens to someone’s estate when they die.[1]

Supporting the Remaining Spouse

Under the Illinois Probate Act (Article XV) the court will give the surviving spouse at least enough to support them and any children they had together for nine months.[2] This law is only relevant if there was no will or other previously settled agreements. This can also come up if those prior agreements didn’t plan to give the other spouse enough money.

On top of the nine-month rule, the court also sets out the dollar amount minimum to be at least $20,000 given to the surviving spouse. There is also a $10,000 minimum per child that the couple had together.

Priority of Fund Distribution

Granting funds to the surviving spouse and any of their children are second-class claims. This means that they will not be given priority over first-class claims. First class claims include things such as funeral expenses and other death-related expenses.

The spouse and child’s claims will take precedence over claims such as estate taxes, creditors, and debts.

Prenuptial Agreements and Surviving Spouse's Rights in Illinois

Prenuptial agreements or postnuptial agreements determine how property from before the marriage will be divided when the marriage ends. These agreements come into effect either in the event of a divorce or when a party passes away.

These agreements are especially important if they include clauses regarding a spouse’s inheritance. A prenuptial agreement even takes precedence over a will and the spousal claim mentioned above.

The Marital Home – Joint Tenancy with Right of Survivorship

When parties co-own a home during their marriage, the surviving party will keep the home. The surviving party can keep the home or sell it depending on their own situation and needs.

If the home was solely owned by the party that died, then the person that they decided would get it in their will or estate will get the home. There are some complications of how this can actually end up, so your best bet will be to discuss your situation with an attorney.

To get an attorney who can help you with a case in probate law, you can contact the Illinois State Bar.

For Immediate help with your family law case or answering any questions please call (312) 757-8082 now!

Frequently Asked Questions

Does the surviving spouse inherit everything in Illinois?

No, the surviving spouse does not automatically inherit everything in Illinois. They may end up with everything, but only if their situation demands that. They do not automatically get everything because Illinois is not a community property state.
Also, inheritance is usually not considered marital property in the event of a divorce.

What is a surviving spouse entitled to in Illinois?

The surviving spouse is entitled to 20,000 dollars or enough money to sustain them for nine months. This comes after any funeral costs. The exact amounts will be decided based on the circumstances of your finances.

Is Illinois a spousal property rights state?

Spousal property is another term sometimes used to refer to community property. Illinois is not a community property state. In a community property state, all marital property is split evenly.

When a spouse dies, who gets the house in Illinois?

If both parties owned the home jointly, then the living spouse takes the house. If the deceased spouse owned the home by themself, then where the house goes depends on how that spouse wanted it.

References: 1. 755 ILCS 5. Probate Act of 1975. | 2. 755 ILCS § 5/15 (1). Spouse and Child Awards.

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