Have you ever heard someone use the term “escheat” in daily life? Unless you work in the legal field, the chances are pretty good that you have never heard anyone, utter a word like escheat; it just doesn’t happen. That’s because escheat is a term of art. While the term may be confusing, what it represents is not.
When something escheats, it means that the title to property transfers to the state. Why does the title to the property transfer to the state? It transfers because two things have occurred: 1) the owner of that property died intestate, and 2) no legally recognized heirs survived that are able to inherent title to the property.
You may also be wondering what it means to say someone died intestate. Dying intestate means that a person dies without having drafted a valid will or trust to dictate to whom the property should be passed.
Now that you know what intestate means, you may be wondering how this pertains to you since you have heirs now, right? Wrong. A person’s heirs cannot be determined until after one dies, and in order for those heirs (if any) to acquire title to the property, they must be an heir that’s recognized by the intestacy statute of the jurisdiction – and this varies from place to place.
In other words, don’t assume that you know who will get your cabin when you die. Meet with an experienced and qualified estate planning attorney and ensure your property goes to the people you want.