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Can The State Really Inherit Your Property After You Die?


Everyone knows that they should write a will, but most of us keep putting it off until the next year.  The thing that motivates most of us to put our last will and testament into writing is a sudden jolt of fear about something that might happen if we don’t write a will.  For example, perhaps you are angry that, despite all your tax-deductible expenses, you still owe money to the IRS this year while other people whose income is similar to yours get a tax refund.  You don’t want Uncle Sam to get a penny of your money after you die, so you start typing a will specifying which assets you want to leave to which family members.  Yes, your family gets on your nerves, and you know they will spend the money on something foolish, but at least the government will not get your money.  If this is your reason, the law has good news and bad news for you.  The good news is that, even if you don’t write a will, your property will probably still pass to your surviving family members instead of to Uncle Sam.  The bad news is that the state does sometimes inherit money from people’s estates, and in some cases, the decedent wrote a will.  An Orlando estate planning lawyer can help you start or update your estate plan so that the State of Florida does not inherit your property.

Florida Escheatment Laws

The purpose of probate is to find the heirs to a deceased person’s estate and to distribute the person’s property to them.  If the decedent left a will, then the probate court follows the instructions listed in the will regarding which beneficiaries should receive which property from the estate.  The beneficiaries may be family members or friends of the deceased, or they may be charitable organizations; you can distribute your property however you choose in your will.  The personal representative of the estate must attempt to find the contact information of beneficiaries designated in the will and must publish notices announcing that the estate is open, so that people who wish to make a claim on the estate may do so.  If the decedent did not write a will, the personal representative goes through the same process; since there is no will that lists beneficiaries, Florida law indicates that the decedent’s closest surviving relatives are the heirs to the estate.

The probate court must keep the estate open long enough for heirs to claim their inheritance, but if some property is still unclaimed when the estate settles, it becomes the property of Florida.  This is called an escheatment.  Florida deposits escheated property into the State School Fund.  If prospective beneficiaries do not become aware of the probate proceedings until after the estate has settled, they have ten years to petition the court to reopen the estate so that they can claim their inheritance.

Contact Gierach and Gierach About Preventing Escheatment

An estate planning lawyer can help you prevent the state from inheriting your property.  Contact Gierach and Gierach, P.A. in Orlando, Florida to discuss your case.



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