"The slaves were part of the estate. If there were no heirs at all, the slaves would be sold and the money dispersed to settle debts. If they owned slaves, they almost always owned property, too. That would also be sold and any debts settled. If no heirs came forward after that, the state generally kept the money in an escrow account for a number of years, then it went into the general fund. It was extremely rare for a slave owner to die with no will and no heirs. It was more likely to happen to a young man who had no intention of dying yet. In that case the slave was usually owned by his parents and would return to them. In the case where a whole family was wiped out by disease, it was extremely sad. There were almost always deaths among the slaves, too, when that happened and they faced a very uncertain future. Except in the rare cases where provisions were made to free them, they had a future with a relative of the masters they don't know well or they would be sold. Most slave owners regarded their slaves as a cross between mis-begotten children and livestock. They took care of them because in their opinion they couldn't take care of themselves. They punished them when needed. They got a fair day's work out of them. They also made plans for what would happen if they died just like today you make plans for what will happen to your children or your cat."
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