Most people know that having an estate plan is important. However, far too many Californians fail to make one. If you die without a will, your home, car, and assets are at the mercy of the courts. While California’s probate code sets certain procedures to resolve the estates of people who have passed away without a plan, a judge could escheat your possessions, transferring them to the state treasury.  Avoiding escheatment

Estate Escheatment in California

When someone passes away without a will, the state considers them to have died intestate. This means, their assets will be distributed by a strict legal formula that privileges close blood relatives. However, if the probate court cannot identify or locate any eligible heirs, California could escheat your estate, taking your home, your money, and your assets for itself if that estate meets certain criteria.

How Different Assets Escheat

  • The property has been abandoned or unclaimed for 3 or more years
  • The owner’s last known address was in California
  • The state cannot locate any eligible owner or heir  
  • An inactive bank account may escheat to the state if the owner has not corresponded with the bank or demonstrated any interest in the account after 3 or more years
  • The contents of a safe deposit box may escheat to the state 3 or more years after the lease or the rental period for the safe deposit box has expired
  • Stocks and bonds may escheat to the state if the principal amount generates any dividend, profit, or interest which goes unclaimed by the owner

However, California can waive the 3-year escheatment period for intestate assets. If the court cannot immediately locate or identify your next of kin, it can order the transfer of your assets to the state controller. While there is a process an heir might follow to reclaim any escheated properties, you could save your beneficiaries time and money by making a simple estate plan.

Preventing Escheatment         

The only way to prevent escheatment is by creating an estate plan. This could be as simple as writing a will. However, a simple will cannot protect your loved ones from probate. The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. could analyze your estate, assets, and holdings to propose alternate estate protection solutions.

Alternate Solutions

Don’t Let the State Take Your Legacy

You can avoid escheatment and probate if you ensure that your estate plan is comprehensive and compliant with California state law. The Law Firm of Kavesh, Minor & Otis, Inc. has decades of experience helping Californians plan their estates. We could help you, too. Please send us a message online, or call us at 1-800-756-5596 to schedule your initial consultation.


Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.
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