Emory Law Journal


Sean M. Diamond


In the wake of the economic crisis, state budgets have been devastated by substantial decreases in revenue. A traditional source for raising revenue is increased taxes, but raising taxes carries a political stigma legislators prefer to avoid. Instead of (or in addition to) raising taxes, states often seek alternative sources of revenue through their unclaimed property laws. Unclaimed property laws incorporate the doctrine of escheat, which entitles a state to take custody of property that has remained unclaimed by its owner for a designated period of time. In the past twenty years, states have expanded their escheat laws and increased collection efforts to capture more unclaimed property as an alternative source of revenue. An example of this trend are states¿ attempts to capture the remaining value on gift cards, which independently are often small amounts but, in the aggregate, constitute a substantial sum ripe for the taking.