What is Escheat?

If you do not have a valid Florida will or trust at the time of your death, the State of Florida can claim your property after you pass away through escheat if you have no heirs or relatives that come forward to make a claim. The court will issue an order whereby your property gets transferred to the State of Florida. However, if an heir does come forward, the heir can make a claim with the court.

If you believe you are entitled to your relative’s estate, you should speak with a Miami probate and estate attorney. Since escheat and intestate matters are complex, the assistance of a Miami probate and estate attorney is generally required to help you make your claim. The attorney can file the necessary paperwork with the Miami-Dade Probate Clerk’s Office to schedule a hearing and can represent you at court in the matter.

The claim must be made within three months after the publication of the Notice of Administration. An heir must establish that they are related to the decedent through birth certificates, family tree or genealogy charts. The attorney will review the documentation to make sure that it is sufficient for the court to rule in favor of the claimant and recognize the claimant as the rightful heir of the decedent. The court will issue an order approving the decedent’s heir so that the assets can be distributed to the heir after all the claims have been paid and the estate can be closed.

The attorney can also assist with accountings and locating assets, managing estate property and preparing and filing estate tax returns.

Importance of Making a Will and Trust

In order to avoid your property going to the State of Florida as unclaimed property and to maintain control of the disposition of your assets after your death, you should make a valid Florida will and/or trust. Even if you do not have heirs, you may want to leave your assets to someone else or to a charity, especially if you have a large estate. Trusts are not subject to probate, and you can reduce your estate taxes by using a trust.
You can also give away your assets while you are still living. Under federal gift tax laws, you are entitled to gift $13,000 a year tax free to any person you want. Married persons can each gift $13,000 so the same person or different persons. Assets such as real estate that are held jointly are not subject to probate. Also, insurance policies and retirement accounts are not subject to probate because they have named beneficiaries.

Protect your assets through proper estate planning to avoid the escheat of your property by speaking with an experienced Miami probate and estate attorney.

If you wish to speak to a Miami estate attorney, call the Law Offices of Albert Gurevich at (786) 522-1411.