The money won in an Illinois wrongful death lawsuit goes to the “next of kin” of the person who died (decedent). For Illinois wrongful death purposes, “next of kin” means the surviving spouse and children. Only if there is no spouse and there are no living children, do the parents and siblings qualify as next of kin. Then, if none of those exist other relatives are considered next of kin. Determining who really qualifies as a spouse is crucial to proper distribution of funds, and in some families it can be a very contentious issue.
Common Law Marriage
You cannot form a common law marriage in Illinois. The practice has been banned in the state for over 100 year. But, a few states still allow it. If you formed a valid common law marriage in another state, Illinois will recognize it.
Civil Unions and Domestic Partnerships
If you and your partner were in a civil union, in Illinois, you have the same rights as a spouse, including the right to receive wrongful death compensation. Illinois also recognizes domestic partnerships formed in states where the domestic partnership laws are very similar to Illinois’ civil union law.
In Illinois, a putative spouse is someone who entered a ceremonial marriage and lived with their partner fully believing that they were legally married, but the marriage was void for some reason, typically bigamy. In Illinois, a putative spouse is treated like a valid spouse, but it gets complicated if there is still a valid spouse or if there is more than one putative spouse.
To learn more about Illinois wrongful death law and your legal rights, please contact an experienced Illinois wrongful death attorney today.