Definitions from Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition and Ballentine's Law Dictionary as are available for each term in each dictionary.
  • Ballentine's Law Dictionary

    The reversion of title to the lord upon failure of heirs of the tenant to inherit; the reversion of land to the state upon failure of heirs. See 12 L. R. A. 529, note.

  • Black's Law Dictionary: 2nd Edition

    In feudal law. Escheat is an obstruction of the course of descent, and consequent determination of the tenure, by some unforeseen contingency, in which case the land naturally results back, by a kind of reversion, to the original grantor or lord of the fee. 2 Bl. Comm. 15; Wallace v. Harm-stad, 44 Pa. 501; Marshall v. Lovdass, 1 N. C. 445. ' It is the casual descent, in the nature of forfeiture, of lands and tenements within his manor, to a lord, either on failure of issue of the tenant dying seised or on account of the felony of such tenant. Jacob. Also the land or fee itself, which thus fell back to the lord. Such lands were called "excadentim," or "terræ excadentiales." Fleta, lib. 6, c. 1; Ch Litt. 13a. In American law. Escheat signifies a reversion of property to the state in consequence of a want of any individual competent to inherit. The state is deemed to occupy the place and hold the rights of the feudal lord. See 4 Kent, Comm. 423, 424. Hughes v. State, 41 Tex. 17; Crane v. Reeder, 21 Mich. 70, 4 Am. Rep. 430; Civ. Code Ga. 1895, § 3575. "Escheat at feudal law was the right of the lord of a fee to re-enter upon the same when it became vacant by the extinction of the blood of the tenant. This extinction might either be per defectum sanguinis or else per delictum tenentis, where the course of descent was broken by the corruption of the blood of the tenant. As a fee might be holden either of the crown or from some inferior lord, the escheat was not always to the crown. The word 'escheat,' in this country, at the present time, merely indicates the preferable right of the state to an estate left vacant, and without there being any one in existence able to make claim thereto." 29 Am. Dec. 232, note.
    —Escheat, writ of. A writ which anciently lay for a lord, to recover possession of lands that had escheated to him. Reg. Orig. 164b; Fitzh. Nat. Brev. 143.
    —Single escheat. When all a person's movables fall to the crown, as a casualty, because of his being declared rebel. Wharton.