Each year about $30 million escheats to the State of Oregon, and about $10 million is returned to the owner of that property. A portion of this $30 million comes from property which is unclaimed from people’s estates.
As we mentioned in our last post, it is possible for the State of Oregon to end up with all of a person’s estate. How does this happen? The concept of “escheat” has its origins in feudal England, where if a tenant of land died without heir, the land reverted to the King for a period of time. Similarly, ORS §112.055 provides that if a person has no qualified heirs, their property must be given to the State of Oregon. However, in order for this to happen, a decedent must have:
- No surviving spouse;
- No surviving children;
- No surviving parents;
- No surviving siblings or their descendants;
- No surviving grandparents;
- No surviving aunts or uncles; and
- 7. No surviving first cousins or their descendents.
When such a situation arises, the Department of State Lands sells all assets of an estate, and then holds the money for 10 years. If a proven heir comes forward during that time, that heir receives the decedent’s estate. If not, the entire value of the estate is deposited into the Oregon Common School fund. A valid will or trust leaving the estate to other beneficiaries can prevent the estate of a person with no heirs from going to the State of Oregon.
The same procedure is used when one of the beneficiaries of a will cannot be found or will not accept the property that is left to them in the will. In that case, the Personal Representative must turn over the unclaimed property to the State of Oregon.