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A common misconception about estates

By Chesley Payne

A common statement I hear from clients is a fear that if they don’t have a will, the “state will get the property.”

The doctrine of paying money from an estate over to the state is known as “escheat.” This doctrine is found in the Alabama State Code and states that if a personal representative of an estate can’t find any heirs after 18 months, the monies are to be paid out to the probate judge to be distributed to the state treasurer. This doctrine isn’t intended to be a source of revenue for the state, but, rather, a solution to an issue that, when it arises, can cause a headache for all involved.

There’s no need of concern for most people as state law in Alabama provides a long list of individuals who would qualify as an heir. For those who have parents, children, spouses, siblings, or more distant relations surviving them, the chance of a loss of property to the state is almost zero.

However, this fear does bring some attention to an area that is often overlooked: the need for a will. While there are some concerns about the cost of probating of will, the benefits obtained by probating a will often outweigh those costs. A will can allow for the quick, efficient resolution of estate issues.

If you have any concerns about how your estate will be dealt with, you should discuss this with an attorney of your choice.

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