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What Is Escheat?
Escheat refers to the reversion or forfeiture of property to the government upon the occurrence of some chance event or default. Typically, escheat allows the government to acquire title to a certain piece of property where there are no existing individuals who are entitled to inherit that property. In the United States, escheated property usually passes to the state governments.
What Does The Government Do With Escheated Property?
State governments may provide that escheated property will go to some designated political subdivision of the state or be disposed of in some other manner. Escheat laws are a significant source of revenue for the more rural states, allowing property that would otherwise be dormant to be put into active use.
What Types Of Property Are Subject To Escheat?
As the word "escheat" is now used, all property, real and personal, and all property rights of any nature, are subject to escheat. In most states, however, abandoned or unclaimed intangible personal property is subject to custodial taking statutes, rather than true escheat. Any doubt as to whether property is subject to escheat is resolved against the state.
When Will Property Escheat To The Government?
Under escheat, the state is entitled to take the property of those who die without leaving anyone eligible to take their property through intestate succession. The existence of heirs does not necessarily prevent the government from taking a property by escheat. If such heirs are legally incompetent to take property by inheritance under the laws of the state, the situation may be the same as if there were no heirs and the property will escheat.
How Can I Make Sure That Property I Own Does Not Escheat To The State Once I Die?
Your best option is to retain a lawyer to help you draft a will naming those who you wish to receive your property once you are dead. An attorney skilled in the creation of wills and trusts will help you to make sure that your property goes to your heirs (or others that you wish to receive it) and not to the government.
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Last Modified: 11-13-2013 11:15 AM PST
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