How Did Intestate Inheritance Work at the Time?

State statute dictates how the estate of a deceased person who dies without a will is to be disbursed among the heirs. That process can be complicated if the deceased person dies without leaving any descendants of their own. That process can change slightly over time. It is important to know what laws were in effect at the time an estate was being settled.

John Trautvetter died in 1937 in Illinois leaving no children and his mother and six siblings as his heirs. Contemporary statute gave his mother a double share compared to his siblings. For that reason the estate was divided into eighths, with his mother to receive two of those shares and his six siblings to each receive one share. The estate was to be divided into eight parts even though he had six siblings.

The mother and five of the siblings all agreed to let one brother have the balance of the small estate to compensate for his time and effort in settling it up and in handling his deceased brother’s affairs. As long as all the heirs agree, they can set aside what statute dictates.