Escheat estates and absentee distributee

The following information explains the notification requirements and other procedural information related to escheat estates and absentee distributee.

What is an escheat estate?

Escheat of an estate means that a person dies without a will, whether a resident of this state or not, leaving property subject to the jurisdiction of this state without being survived by any person entitled to the property (RCW 11.04.015).

The department must be promptly notified in writing as of the potential escheat (WAC 458-57-165). The informant may be a coroner, lawyer, or other persons who are aware that the decedent has passed without family.

What is an absentee distributee?

An absentee distributee is any person who is a beneficiary of a will or a trust that has not been located. If a personal representative cannot locate a beneficiary of a will or trust, the personal representative is required to follow the procedures outlined in RCW 11.76.200 through 11.76.230.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Who qualifies as a legal heir?

A legal heir includes any blood descendant of a decedent's grandparents (RCW 11.04.015).

Are escheat estates different from unclaimed property?

Yes, unclaimed property refers to property being held by an organization that has had no contact with the owner for an extended period and there is no knowledge of the person's death. Property is usually considered unclaimed after three years, when it is turned over to the state of Washington.

Some of the many sources of unclaimed property are:

  • Banks.
  • Retailers.
  • Credit unions.
  • Utilities.
  • Corporations.
  • Insurance companies.
  • Governmental entities.

For unclaimed property reporting and claims, go to

How do I report a potential escheat?

File the Notice of Escheat Estate form (Fill-In or Print).

For additional information, see RCW 11.08.


Send us your question or call 360-704-5906, option 1, to speak with a tax examiner.

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