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Legal Definition and Related Resources of Escheat

Meaning of Escheat

The reversion of property to the state as the ultimate proprietor of land, by reason of the lack of anyone to inherit it. An incident of tenure arising out of the feudal system whereby the escheated estate , on the death without heirs of the person last seized, escheats to the lord as reverting to the original grantor , there being no longer a tenant to perform the services incidental to the tenure. At common law abandoned personal property was not the subject of escheat, but was subject only to the right of appropriation by the sovereign as bona vacantia; and like rights of appropriation, except so far as limited by State law and the fourteenth amendment , exist in the several States of the United States . Anderson national Bank v Luckett, 321 U.S. 233, 64 S.Ct. 599, 88 L.Ed. 692.

Escheat Alternative Definition

(Fr. escheoir, to happen). Under the Feudal System. An obstruction of the course of descent, and a consequent determination of the tenure by some unforeseen contingency, in which case the land naturally reverts back to the original grantor or lord of the fee. 2 Bl. Comm. 244. Escheat grows out of the doctrine of tenure, which is the foundation of the feudal system, whereby a man was not an owner of land, but only of a demesne estate therein, based on allegiance to a superior lord. Escheat is to be distinguished from “forfeiture.” Forfeiture of land for crime was part of the Saxon system, and was not a consequence of any lordship paramount. It was not superseded by the introduction of the Norman tenures from which escheat resulted. “Escheat therefore operates in subordination to this more ancient and superior law of forfeiture.” 2 Bl. Comm. 251. The principal grounds of escheat were death inbestate without heirs, alienage, illegitimacy, and attainder. 2 Bl. Comm. 246; 4 Kent, Comm. 424. Only the first two are generally in force in the United States, the third being generally abolished by statute, and the fourth by Const. U. S. art. 1, I 9, subd. 3. See 9 Mass. 363. In Modern Law. The reversion of land to the state by reason of failure of heirs or of the owner’s incapacity to hold.

Escheat Legal Definition

In American law, the right of the state to an estate left vacant, to which no one makes a valid claim.

Synonyms of Escheat


  • be forfeited back
  • cede back
  • go back
  • hereditas caduca
  • obstruct the course of descent
  • recede
  • regress
  • relapse
  • retrocede
  • retrovert
  • return
  • reverse
  • revert
  • revert to the state
  • slip back
  • turn back Associated Concepts: forfeiture

Related Entries of Escheat in the Encyclopedia of Law Project

Browse or run a search for Escheat in the American Encyclopedia of Law, the Asian Encyclopedia of Law, the European Encyclopedia of Law, the UK Encyclopedia of Law or the Latin American and Spanish Encyclopedia of Law.

Escheat in Historical Law

You might be interested in the historical meaning of this term. Browse or search for Escheat in Historical Law in the Encyclopedia of Law.

Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms

Search for legal acronyms and/or abbreviations containing Escheat in the Legal Abbreviations and Acronyms Dictionary.

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This definition of Escheat is based on the The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary . This entry needs to be proofread.

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Escheat in the United States

Escheat in Connecticut

Upon payment or delivery of property presumed abandoned to the Treasurer, the state shall assume custody and, except as otherwise provided in subsection (h) of section 3-65a, shall be responsible for all claims thereto. General Statutes of Connecticut (U.S.) § 3-67a(a)(2011).

Meaning of Escheat in the U.S. Legal System

Definition of Escheat ((es-ch_t)) published by the National Association for Court Management: The process by which a deceased person’s property goes to the state if no heir can be found.

Concept of Escheat in the context of Real Property

A short definition of Escheat: A reversion of property to the state in the absence of an individual owner. Usually occurs when a property owner dies intestate, and without heirs.

Concept of Escheat in the context of Real Property

A short definition of Escheat: A reversion of property to the state in the absence of an individual owner. Usually occurs when a property owner dies intestate, and without heirs.



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