Escheat Law and Legal Definition

Escheat is the reversion of property to a government entity in the absence of legal claimants or heirs. Escheat is the forfeiture of all property (including bank accounts) to the state treasury if there are no heirs, descendants or named beneficiaries to take the property upon the death of the last known owner. Most states have a long-standing law that any business that finds itself holding any property (cash, goods, etc.) belonging to someone else that is unclaimed must remit this property to the state. The state then has the obligation to find the legitimate owner or heir of the property.

Property that may escheat to the state includes, among others:

  • Savings and checking accounts
  • Uncashed payroll or cashier checks
  • Money orders and travelers checks
  • Certificates of deposit
  • Customer deposits or overpayments
  • Paid up life insurance policies
  • Heath & accident insurance payments
  • Uncashed death benefit checks
  • Gift certificates and Christmas club accounts
  • Stock and dividends
  • Utility deposits
  • Oil and gas royalty payments