Intestate successions are those in which there is no will, or in which the provisions of the will does not cover the whole estate. Intestate successions are governed by the intestacy laws of the respective country. As a general rule, these laws grant the estate to the closest relatives of the deceased. However, even though most of the legal systems establish a limitation as to the degree of kinship after which it is not possible for a relative to inherit, many others legislations allow very distant relatives to inherit, even without limitation (Ohio Revised Code, Section 2105.06, i), the law for the State of New Jersey for persons deceased prior to February 25, 2005, some Australian jurisdictions, the Illinois Intestacy Statute (5/2-1, g), among others.

Some others intestacy laws, though not reaching that far as the ones previously described enable distant relatives to receive the estate. As an example, the Civil Code of Quebec (article 683) grants hereditary rights to the descendants of the great grandfather, where no closer relatives appear, and the former Italian Civil Code, to relatives in the tenth degree of kinship, that is, descendants of the generation of the deceased, of the parents of the great grandfathers.

In addition, the existence of unclaimed hereditary rights may arise due to the general principle by which even though the heir does not effectively receive the estate to which he or she is entitled during his or her life, his o her right passes to his or her own heirs. Hence, for instance, if A executed a will in favor of his longtime friend B, and B passes away without having received the assets of B, B passes his rights to his own heirs, C and D. In this way, C and D become entitled to assets that belonged to a person (A) they probably did not know.

Clearly, the migrations that took place during the XIX and XX and even the current one, and the ongoing globalization of economic transactions, with the possibility of saving and investing in a country different from one’s residence, increase the likelihood of unclaimed estates.

Fortunately, at the same time it also happens that the likelihood of locating the rightful owners of these assets is greater than ever, as are more the regulations aimed at protecting them.


Stilman Research is a Licensed Private Investigative Agency in the State of Florida, pursuant Chapter 493 of the Florida Statutes - License Number A 1500310.