Definition of Escheat

In real estate, escheat is the process of transferring the title of real property or the estate to the government once the rightful owner dies. Escheat can only occur if a person dies and does not leave a will or does not have heirs to take over the estate.

Why is this term important?

Escheat is a common law doctrine that ensures that a person’s property and the estate is never left without a rightful and responsible owner. As a common-law doctrine that dates back to a time of feudal law, escheat ensures that real property always has a recognized owner. That means if the current owner dies and there is no rightful heir that can lay claim to the property, the state (typically the provincial attorney general) takes ownership.

Examples of term

If a Vancouver homeowner died and did not leave a will and didn’t have any heirs, then the home would become the legal possession of the B.C. Attorney General.