No Escheats, Please: Charitable Giving as a Last Resort

If the entire population of the United States took a poll asking whether they would want their estate to go to the government or to a charity of their choice, what choice would win? Just making an assumption here, but I would bet charity would win in a landslide. Why? Because most people don’t like paying the government if they don’t have to. But, that’s exactly what would happen if you die with no intestate (default) beneficiaries. So, why not eliminate that possibility in your will?

Adding an Ultimate Beneficiary clause to your will – basically, if everyone else dies before you, or if you and all of the people in your will die together, then everything goes to X – saves your estate from escheats. Escheats is the process where the state takes unclaimed or abandoned property, including estate proceeds. However, if there is an ultimate beneficiary, you estate proceeds never become unclaimed or abandoned.

Charities, especially long-standing ones, are great ultimate beneficiaries because they are much more likely to both survive you and do something good with your estate proceeds. If the government claims your estate, who knows what they would do with it? By choosing a worth charity, like the V Foundation for Cancer Research or Habitat for Humanity, you ensure that your estate will further some noble cause, rather than being spent on some miscellaneous government budget line item.

Paul A. Yokabitus