Government Escheat Law and Legal Definition

Escheat means the forfeiture of property due to a failure to claim ownership. In estate law, it means the forfeit of all property (including bank accounts) to the state treasury if it appears certain that there are no heirs, descendants or named beneficiaries to take the property upon the death of the last known owner. In some jurisdictions, carriers, innkeepers and other designated bailees are authorized by statute to sell unclaimed freight, baggage or other personal property under specified conditions. These statutes generally require that the property remain unclaimed for a designated period and that notice of the sale be given. Most states have enacted legislation providing for the escheat of abandoned and unclaimed property, or giving custody of such property to the state. These statutes generally set forth procedures, whereby the owner may file a claim and obtain restoration of the property within a designated period of time.