Definition - What does Escheat mean?

Escheat is the process by which property with no legal claimants reverts to government ownership.

Ownership of real property is most often passed from a decedent to the decedent’s legal heirs. But, in the rare instance when a person dies and has no legal heirs, most jurisdictions will pass ownership to the government through escheat.

Justipedia explains Escheat

In the long list of mechanisms used for conveying a decedent’s estate, escheat is the absolute last resort.

Usually, when an estate holder dies, their estate is divided according to the estate holder’s will. If there is no will, the estate holder’s estate is divided according to intestate laws. If there is no will and if there is no one to take the estate under intestate laws, the local government will take ownership of the estate by escheat.

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