The wrongful death act provides the personal representative of the decedent with the authority to file a lawsuit for the benefit of the next of kin.
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Attorney Lassen's answer was correct but you probably want more detail. Consider the wrongful death action as separate from the survival action. The proceeds of the survival action pass through the estate and the will controls if there is one. Wrongful death proceeds are allocated according to financial dependence of the survivors. Imagine a wage earner being killed and leaving behind a wife and three small children. They suffer loss of support so the Court allocates the wrongful death recovery among them according to a formula. If you want to know the specific formula you will have to ask an Illinois lawyer. If there are no dependent survivors the value of the wrongful death claim will be less and allocating the wrongful death proceeds gets a lot more complicated.
Wrongful death proceeds can be treated different in different states. You should talk to attorney in the state where the person died. A good probate lawyer can also help you with the estate.
The laws on wrongful death and survivorship claims vary from state to state so you need an opinion from a lawyer in the state where the accident causing the death occurred. You are correct that the Will, if there was one, does not necessarily control who can make the claim or how the settlement or funds from a verdict will be divided.
In some states, only the Personal Representative of the Estate appointed by the Court can bring the lawsuit. However, that PR brings the claim for all of the survivors that are entitled to recover damages. The PR may not even be one of those survivors. In other states, each survivor can bring their own lawsuit for their own damages.
If the state law provides for a right of recovery for certain Kin a will disinheriting that Kin would probably not affect that kin's right to recovery.
You need to meet with a lawyer who practices in the state where the accident occured as soon as possible. There are statutes of limitation that will bar the claims if prompt action is not taken.
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