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The Last Man on Earth's Estate Planning

Building off my blog for Oscars weekend, the show Last Man On Earth began again this past Sunday. In case you haven't seen it, the show revolves around Phil Miller, who finds himself wandering in Tucson all alone, after a deadly virus has wiped out the rest of mankind. He later finds other survivors (which is why the show has more than one episode), but the initial premise is the same for each of them.

Its actually a pretty fun show, with a variety of comedic actors and cameos, but the dark history of the show comes up from time to time, and we see that the main character Phil has had to bury his parents and watch his brother get sick and die, leaving only him behind, unmarried with no discernible heirs.

Unfortunately, in our age this isn't that uncommon; parents without siblings often have one child and pass on, and that child may decide not to marry or have any children. The big estate planning question that arises is: what happens to his or her estate after passing on, too?

In Illinois, there is an order, known as "intestate succession," which is built into the probate law in case this comes about. Normally, the spouse and children split everything, but if the deceased was unmarried and without children, it could go to parents, siblings, nieces and nephews, grandparents, etc. until a class of heirs can be found. If no blood relatives can be found, it may "escheat" to the State for a period of time, after which it becomes property of the government.

Of course in Phil's case, there are no known heirs, no government to ultimately absorb anything, and no probate code anyway (or any property law in general), so he probably won't need a will. But for people living in real life without any known living relatives, leaving any legacy gift upon death to a special friend or a favorite charity will likely be impossible without setting out a will or trust to short circuit the default order.