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Parent Dies, Nevada Inherits?

Escheat & The Unclaimed Property Division in Nevada

Many clients mistakenly think that if they die without a will, their money will go the State of Nevada. This is simply not true. A surviving spouse or any relative can start a probate proceeding to have the assets distributed. See If You Die Without A Will. However, there is a rare process called "escheat" if no spouse or relatives can be found (see below).


There is a very rare process called "escheat" in which if a person dies without a will and no spouse or relatives can be found, the money is turned over to the State of Nevada. That person's spouse or relatives then have six years to claim the money back from the State of Nevada. This process requires an attorney. The lawsuit to get the money back from the State of Nevada has to be filed in Carson City District Court, even if the person who died was a resident of Las Vegas. Obviously, if a person dies and his or her relatives don't know about the death, the person was a loner and estranged from his or her relatives. The escheat laws are discussed beginning at N.R.S. 154.010.

Type of Situation Where This May Occur
This situation usually comes about because the coroner is called out for a dead body and the coroner upon finding a dead body inspects the residence and secures all valuables. In this way the coroners is likely to come upon bank statements or cash and if there is no paperwork lying around showing who the relatives are the coroner may simply turn the property over to the public administrator who will probate the property, take a fee and then turn the rest over to the controller's office.

Probate "Researchers or Investigators"
There are actually people, usually not lawyers, who call themselves "probate researchers" or "investigators" who study public records to see when money has escheated to the State of Nevada, or if money is held by the Unclaimed Property division of the Nevada Treasurer. They then use genealogy tools to track down a surviving relative and offer, for a fee to recover or disclose the escheated money.

Will you Need a Lawyer for Escheated or Unclaimed Property?

You will definitely need a lawyer if the money has escheated to the state and a lawsuit must be filed against the state. If the unclaimed property belongs to a dead person and you are an heir you will need a lawyer to do a probate to get the money released. For both uncontested probates and escheats we consider ourselves the low cost, high quality, discount lawyers and attorneys.

Nevada Treasurer's Unclaimed Property Division

But, not all money without an owner escheats to the State of Nevada. Some money will simply be turned over to the Nevada Treasurer's Unclaimed Property division. As long as the Unclaimed Property division thinks an owner may come forward, the money is available to be claimed. The procedure for claiming it varies. If the person died, a probate will be necessary to determine who gets the money. In that case you will need a lawyer to do the probate to get the money released by the Unclaimed Property division.

Example: Insurance Companies

If an insurance company sends out a check to its insured at the insured's last known address and it is returned, after a period of time the insurance company may simply send the money to the Unclaimed Property division of the Nevada Treasurer.

Estate Planning

There are reasons to write a will and reasons to sit down with an estate planning lawyer such as myself to discuss your estate plan whether accomplished through a will, joint accounts, payable on death instruments, or a trust. However, it is a myth that the state gets to take the person's money if they don't write a will.

The single easiest step you can do to make sure that if you die your bank accounts will go to your closest relatives is to make sure that one of those relatives has a list of all of your assets. Of course, next you should consider who you want to get what and consult with an attorney to make that will happen.

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Finder's Fees

N.R.S. 120A.740 limits a finder's fee to 10% for locating abandoned property. Typically a probate researcher or investigator (that what they call themselves, they are folks working for themselves w/o any official title) calls up a person and says, "I've located property you are entitled to; if you sign a contract for a fee to me, I will tell you where it is." Sometimes the probate researcher is ethical and will only charge the 10%; sometimes the probate researcher will ask for a higher fee such as third. We occasionally get calls from people who have been called by a probate researcher and then they go the websites for unclaimed property of the State or County Treasurer and figure out who there relative is see the amount and contact a probate lawyer and cut out the probate researcher. We are happy to work with probate researchers charging the allowed 10% fee (because otherwise the heir might never have found about the money) but don't work with probate researchers who charge more than that.