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[es-cheet] /ɛsˈtʃit/ Law.
the reverting of property to the state or some agency of the state, or, as in England, to the lord of the fee or to the crown, when there is a failure of persons legally qualified to inherit or to claim.
the right to take property subject to escheat.
verb (used without object)
to revert by escheat, as to the crown or the state.
verb (used with object)
to make an escheat of; confiscate.
1250-1300; Middle English eschete < Old French eschete, escheoite, feminine past participle of escheoir < Vulgar Latin *excadēre to fall to a person's share, equivalent to Latin ex- ex-1 + cadere to fall (Vulgar Latin cadēre)
Related forms
escheatable, adjective
unescheatable, adjective
unescheated, adjective Unabridged
Based on the Random House Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2015.
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Examples from the web for escheat
  • Claims may be made, as provided in this section, for such moneys for a period of two years after deposit into the escheat account.
  • They are subject to escheat only in the event of failure of successors in ownership.
British Dictionary definitions for escheat


(in England before 1926) the reversion of property to the Crown in the absence of legal heirs
(in feudal times) the reversion of property to the feudal lord in the absence of legal heirs or upon outlawry of the tenant
the property so reverting
to take (land) by escheat or (of land) to revert by escheat
Derived Forms
escheatable, adjective
escheatage, noun
Word Origin
C14: from Old French eschete, from escheoir to fall to the lot of, from Late Latin excadere (unattested), from Latin cadere to fall
Collins English Dictionary - Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
© William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. 1979, 1986 © HarperCollins
Publishers 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2012
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Word Origin and History for escheat

the reverting of land to a king or lord in certain cases, early 14c., from Anglo-French eschete (late 13c.), from Old French eschete "succession, inheritance," originally fem. past participle of escheoir, from Late Latin *excadere "to fall out," from Latin ex- "out, away" (see ex-) + cadere "to fall" (see case (n.1)). As a verb, from late 14c. Related: Escheated; escheating.

Online Etymology Dictionary, © 2010 Douglas Harper
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Encyclopedia Article for escheat

in feudal English land law, the return or forfeiture to the lord of land held by his tenant. There were generally two conditions by which land would escheat: the death of the tenant without heirs or the conviction of the tenant for a felony. In case of felony, the land would lose its inheritability and escheat to the lord, who would then hold the land subject to the crown's right to exploit the felon's lands for a year and a day. In time, this exploitation right of the crown was commuted in return for a money payment or service rendered to the crown by the lord. In the case of a tenant convicted of high treason, however, his land escheated directly to the crown, and the lord forfeited all rights he had in that tenant's lands completely. The escheat of lands for felony was abolished by statute in England in 1870; and by a statute enacted in 1925, no longer does land escheat to its former owner solely for failure of heirs. In the United States, laws passed in all states provide that land will escheat to the state (county or city) if an owner dies without a valid will and if no heirs can be found. See also attainder.

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Encyclopedia Britannica, 2008. Encyclopedia Britannica Online.
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