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AGO 1953 No. 172 - November 20, 1953
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Don Eastvold | 1953-1956 | Attorney General of Washington

ESCHEAT ‑- PERSONAL PROPERTY ESCHEATING TO THE STATE OF WASHINGTON

The escheat law of the State of Washington does not contemplate personal property being transferred to the State of Washington other than money.

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                                                               November 20, 1953

Honorable Charles R. Maybury
State Treasurer
Legislative Building
Olympia, Washington                                                                                                              Cite as:  AGO 53-55 No. 172

Dear Mr. Maybury:

            We have your letter of November 10, 1953 requesting the opinion of this office "as to whether or not the state treasurer should accept articles other than money from the inheritance tax division."

            It is our opinion that the state treasurer need not accept articles other than money from the inheritance tax division.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            According to your letter, the question arises when an estate consisting of personal property in the form of sales contracts, stocks and bonds, and personal items such as watches, jewelry, etc. escheats to the State of Washington.  The policy of your office has been to accept these assets and liquidate them in due course.  While such a procedure may be pursued by your office, there is no mandatory legal obligation requiring your acceptance of escheated articles other than moneys.

            In arriving at the foregoing conclusion, we have analyzed RCW 11.08.060 as set forth in your letter and as follows:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 2]]

            "ACCOUNTING by administrator ‑ List of land to land commissioner.  Upon the settlement of any escheated estate, and before the discharge of the administrator, officer, or person in charge thereof, all moneys in his hands shall be paid to the state treasurer who shall issue his receipt therefor in duplicate, one of which shall be filed with the tax commission and he shall prepare a duplicate list accurately describing all real property as escheated, one of which shall be filed with the tax commission and one with the commissioner of public lands."

            The term "all moneys" as used herein is limited to a literal definition in application and does not contemplate the inclusion of articles of personal property which may be converted into money.  The ordinary and accepted meaning of the word "money" is gold, silver and other circulating media of the country.  In re Boyle, 2 Cal. App. (2d) 234, 37 P. (2d) 841.

            This interpretation is further justified by examination of § 3, chapter 133, Laws of 1907, RCW 11.08.040, which provides in part as follows:

            "After any estate has been escheated as aforesaid, the administrator thereof, under the supervision and direction of the court, shall sell all the personal property.  * * *"

            Thus it was never contemplated by the legislature that anything other than "money" and real property would become available for the State of Washington.

            Your letter further requests information as to the procedure to be followed when an executory contract for the sale of realty escheats to the State of Washington and the purchaser completes payments in accordance with the contract.

            In such a case, the State of Washington succeeds to all the rights, benefits and obligations of the seller and is bound to the same performance as the seller under the contract.  If the contract provides for issuance of a deed by the seller upon completion of payments, the State of Washington is bound to issue a deed to the purchaser.  Good practice would require the deed to recite the facts of escheat of the contract.

             [[Orig. Op. Page 3]]

            Also, in order to leave no doubt in the chain of title, upon the entry of an order of escheat in superior court, the administrator of the estate should deliver an administrator's deed to the State of Washington reciting the facts of escheat, which said deed should be recorded in the office of the auditor of the county in which the probate takes place.

            In any event, the State of Washington, as successor in interest of the seller, is obligated to deliver a deed to the purchaser.

            We hope the foregoing answers your inquiry in full.

Very truly yours,

DON EASTVOLD
Attorney General


DONALD E. WATSON
Assistant Attorney General

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