TITLE 12

Decedents' Estates and Fiduciary Relations

Descent and Distribution; Escheat

CHAPTER 11. ESCHEATS

Subchapter I. Intestate Property


If any person, being at the time of death seized or possessed of any real or personal estate within this State, dies intestate, without heirs or any known kindred who can inherit and hold the intestate's estate, such estate is escheat to the State, subject to all legal demands on the same.

Code 1852, § 1587; Code 1915, § 123; Code 1935, § 112; 42 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1101; 49 Del. Laws, c. 51; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

There shall be an Escheator of the State, who shall be the Secretary of Finance or the Secretary's delegate. The administration and enforcement of this subchapter are vested in the Secretary of Finance or the Secretary's delegate.

Code 1852, § 1588; Code 1915, § 124; Code 1935, § 113; 42 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1102; 57 Del. Laws, c. 741, § 48A; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

(a) Filing suit. — The Escheator, upon personal knowledge or upon receipt of information of any person dying intestate and without heirs or any known kindred who can inherit and hold the intestate property within this State, of which at the time of death such person was seized or possessed, and which has not previously been escheated to the State by order of the Probate Court, shall cause to be filed a suit in the Court of Chancery of the State in the county wherein such property is located (or if located in more than 1 county in any such county) to inquire whether, as shall be alleged, the person has died without heirs or any known kindred who can inherit and hold the estate, and whether such person was, at the time of death, seized or possessed of any and what estate, real or personal, in the county or counties, and also in whose possession the same shall be.

(b) Notice of Court action. — Upon filing suit in the Court of Chancery, the Escheator shall cause to be published at least once a week for 3 consecutive weeks in a newspaper of general circulation in the county or counties wherein such property is located, notice that the State has filed suit in the Court of Chancery to secure an order that the decedent's property has escheated to the State due to failure of heirs or next of kin qualified to inherit such property.

Said notice shall invite any person having a valid claim to the intestate property of the decedent to file written notice of such claim with the Court of Chancery within 30 days of the date of the third and final publication notice. The Escheator shall also cause similar notice to be posted at the site of any real property the decedent may have owned, and give similar notice by registered mail to all persons known to the Escheator to be in actual possession of the decedent's property.

Code 1852, § 1590; Code 1915, § 126; Code 1935, § 115; 42 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1103; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

After the required notice has been given, a hearing shall be scheduled by the Court of Chancery at which all claimants may present evidence in support of their respective claims. If the Court finds that the conditions for escheat have been met, the Court shall issue an order that the decedent's property escheated to the State as of the date of death. If the Court finds that the conditions for escheat have not been met, the State's petition shall be dismissed and the decedent's property shall be disposed of as otherwise provided by law.

Code 1852, § 1591; Code 1915, § 127; Code 1935, § 116; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1104; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

If any person is absent from the State for 7 consecutive years, and no evident proof is made of the person's life in any hearing held under the foregoing provisions of this subchapter, the person shall be accounted dead.

Code 1852, § 1592; Code 1915, § 128; Code 1935, § 117; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1105; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

If, after hearing as provided herein, the Court finds that goods and chattels have escheated to the State and that said goods and chattels are not in the possession of the Court or the Escheator, the Escheator shall issue a writ, directed to the sheriff of the county, commanding the sheriff to seize, attach and secure such escheated goods and chattels, in whose hands the same are found, or if it is found at the aforesaid hearing that the goods and chattels or any part thereof have been eloigned, then to seize and attach so much of the goods and chattels of the person who has eloigned the same as shall be equal in value to the goods and chattels which the person eloigned.

Code 1852, § 1593; Code 1915, § 129; Code 1935, § 118; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1106; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

The sheriff shall sell the goods and chattels seized and attached in accordance with this subchapter at public auction, after notice as in the case of sale of goods and chattels under execution process and shall, without delay, pay over the proceeds, thence arising to the Escheator for deposit in the General Fund. The sheriff shall be accountable, as in other cases, to the Escheator for money which by virtue of this section, shall come into the sheriff's hands.

Code 1852, § 1594; Code 1915, § 130; Code 1935, § 119; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1107; 57 Del. Laws, c. 741, § 48B; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

(a) The writ prescribed in § 1106 of this title shall be duly returned to the Escheator, with an inventory and appraisement of the goods and chattels seized and attached by virtue thereof, and an account of the sale.

(b) The Escheator shall immediately upon receiving the writ transmit a duly certified copy thereof, and of the return, inventory and appraisement and account of sale to the Secretary of Finance and the State Treasurer.

Code 1852, §§ 1595, 1596; Code 1915, §§ 131, 132; Code 1935, §§ 120, 121; 12 Del. C. 1953, §§ 1108, 1109; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1.;

If, after hearing under this subchapter, the Court finds that real property has escheated to the State, the Escheator, subject to the approval of the Governor, may lease such property upon a reasonable rent therefor, or retain such property for the benefit and use of the State. If the real property is not leased or retained, the Escheator shall sell such property, at public auction, upon like public notice as required by law for the sale of lands under execution process.

Code 1852, § 1597; Code 1915, § 133; Code 1935, § 122; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1110; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1.;

Immediately after sale under § 1109 of this title, the Escheator shall certify the same to the Governor, who, on filing such certificate in the office of the Secretary of State, together with a receipt from the State Treasurer for the price of the lands, shall, by and under the great seal, grant the lands and tenements to the purchaser thereof, to hold to the purchaser, the purchaser's heirs and assigns forever.

Code 1852, § 1602; Code 1915, § 138; Code 1935, § 127; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1115; 57 Del. Laws, c. 741, § 48B; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

The title conveyed by virtue of a deed under § 1110 of this title shall be subject to any reversion, remainder, lease, rent, mortgage or encumbrance of the lands to which they were respectively subject prior to escheat as determined by the Court of Chancery at the hearing; in default of presentment at the hearing, such claims shall forever be barred.

Code 1852, § 1603; Code 1915, § 139; Code 1935, § 128; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1116; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1.;

The Escheator shall pay over the proceeds received from the sale or disposition of all escheated intestate property, real or personal, to the State Treasurer for deposit in the General Fund.

60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1.;

Any person who did not participate in or receive actual notice of the hearing provided by § 1104 of this title shall have the right within 2 years of the date of sale of any property under this subchapter to file a claim by way of petition in the Court of Chancery, to all or any portion of the escheated property. If such claim is established and allowed by the Court, such person shall be entitled to receive from the State Treasurer, under a warrant for the same signed by the Secretary of Finance, all such proceeds as the State shall have received on the sale of such property or portion thereof, after all charges thereon are deducted, or all escheated property, real or personal, still held by the State, subject to paying all costs of the escheat.

Code 1852, §§ 1604, 1605; Code 1915, §§ 140, 141; Code 1935, §§ 129, 130; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1117; 49 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 1; 57 Del. Laws, c. 741, § 48B; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1.;

If any person, at the death of any intestate, shall be indebted to the intestate, or if any part of such estate, real or personal, was not mentioned and included in the Court's initial escheat order, be in the possession of any person, the same shall be recovered to the use of the State by such action as the case may require, in which proceedings the initial escheat order touching the estate of such intestate shall be admissible evidence to prove that the intestate died without heirs or known kindred.

Code 1852, § 1606; Code 1915, § 142; Code 1935, § 131; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1118; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1.;

The Escheator may, from time to time, draw a warrant upon the State Treasurer for sums necessary to pay the expenses of the enforcement of this subchapter, which warrants, when approved by the Secretary of Finance, shall be paid by the Treasurer out of the General Fund of the State.

Code 1935, § 133; 42 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1120; 57 Del. Laws, c. 741, § 48B; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;

The Secretary of State shall convey to a properly organized corporation of this State whatever title the State may have in any real property which was formerly held by or for a religious body and which has or may have escheated provided that:

(1) The Secretary is satisfied that the grantee corporation is the proper successor to the body previously holding equitable or legal title to the property;

(2) A certified copy of the recorded certificate of incorporation of the grantee corporation is provided;

(3) Prior notice of any such proposed conveyance is given by registered mail to the record title holders where known; and

(4) Notice of such proposed conveyance is published in a newspaper of general circulation in the county where the property is situated each week for 3 weeks prior to the execution of the conveyance.

All expenses of such conveyance and notices shall be paid by the grantee corporation.

Code 1852, § 1587; Code 1915, § 123; Code 1935, § 112; 42 Del. Laws, c. 57, § 1; 12 Del. C. 1953, § 1101; 49 Del. Laws, c. 51; 60 Del. Laws, c. 292, § 1; 70 Del. Laws, c. 186, § 1.;