Does Incarceration Impact Inheritance in Connecticut?

By Timothy Mucciante

Incarceration impacts an inmate's inheritance. Connecticut law and Department of Correction policy determines, to some extent, where any inherited funds that come into the DOC system end up. Inherited cash going into an inmate’s prison account may be used partially to fund an inmate’s discharge savings account and for payment of the inmate’s incarceration cost. Even inherited assets that never come into the DOC are subject to a lien.

Inheritance Received by an Inmate

Connecticut inmates are required to reimburse the state for the cost of their incarceration. If an inmate has a remaining balance owing to the state, and the inmate inherits assets, the DOC may place a lien on the inmate's inheritance. This applies to any inheritance received by the inmate within 20 years of the inmate's release from incarceration. The lien is filed directly with the probate court and for the remaining cost of the inmate's incarceration or 50 percent of the assets, whichever is less.

Cost of Incarceration

While incarcerated, the DOC may take a certain percentage of the inmate's discharge savings account to pay for the cost of incarceration. Within two years after the inmate's release, the state attorney general may bring a civil lawsuit to enforce the state's claim on the inmate's assets. Among property exempt from seizure are items necessary for day-to-day living, such as food, clothes and furniture, public assistance payments and workers' compensation benefits. The two-year limitation period does not apply to inmates who fraudulently conceal assets from the state.

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Discharge Savings Accounts

In order for an inmate to prepare for his eventual release, he is required to deposit funds in a savings account. When the inmate is discharged from custody, he will be paid the balance in this account. Up to 10 percent of the funds received into the inmate's commissary account may be deducted as a contribution to the discharge savings account. When the savings account balance reaches $1000, 10 percent of all incoming funds will be taken to reimburse the state for the inmate's cost of incarceration.

If the Inmate Dies

If an inmate dies within 20 years of his release, any of the inmate's assets that form the probate estate may be claimed by the state to pay any remaining reimbursement balance. Certain estate payments have priority over the state's lien, including the support requirements for a surviving spouse, parent or children. Expenses of the deceased's last sickness, funeral and burial expenses, and restitution also have priority over the DOC's claim.

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