Some people are concerned that the state government always takes a portion or even all of a deceased person’s property when there isn’t a valid will. Although the state may receive a portion of the intestate estate, this only occurs when there aren’t any qualified living heirs according to the appropriate state’s laws.
Every state has laws designed to ensure that all property has a legal owner following the most recent owner’s death.
Most of these laws are related to the deceased’s formally expressed wishes, such as post-death transfer by will, trust, or joint ownership. These are the preferred instructions and, when otherwise valid, will always be used to determine who will own the deceased’s property.
In the absence of such instructions, each state also has laws that establish a system for determining who will become the owner of this intestate property. All intestate laws define circumstances under which the property will be given to the state government, but are mainly focused on the deceased’s relatives when trying to determine who receives the property.
Property that is given to the government because it does not have a legal owner is said to escheat. Fortunately, the escheatment of property is always the ‘last resort’ of each state’s intestate laws. There must be an absence of every living relation who may qualify as the deceased’s heir before any property is given to the state.
Final Qualified Heir
The intestate laws of every American state are different, meaning that the likelihood of escheatment differs with each state. A minority of states, just eighteen, will try to find any living relation before allowing the property to escheat.