In Oregon, the Department of State Lands administers estates
where there is no will and no known heirs. Agency staff search for heirs and
when none are identified, perform the duties of a personal representative to
settle the estates in accordance with probate laws. The Department holds
estates in trust for 10 years within the Common School Fund,
and if no heirs are identified within that claim period, the proceeds from the
estate permanently escheat to the fund.
Anyone with knowledge of the death of an individual
without a will and known heirs is required by law to notify DSL with 48 hours
of awareness. In recent years, Estates Program staff have stepped up efforts to
contact landlords, funeral homes, medical examiners and others to educate them
about the agency's responsibilities, resulting in a significant increase in
both the number of estates being managed by DSL and revenue from escheats.
In fiscal year 2012, staff opened
just over 150 new cases – an average of 2.5 cases per week. During the year,
$275,920 was escheated to the Common School Fund from estates, and an
additional $172,412 was received from probates in which heirs or those named in
wills could not be found or refused to accept payment. A total of $890,172 was
forwarded to heirs.
"Our estates team is working on more outreach and education, and on
streamlining processes," said Cynthia Wickham, DSL's assistant director
for finance and administration. "We're very focused on upgrading our
administrative resources and expanding professional contacts to ensure we’re
managing Oregon’s program well.