dormant title – an unclaimed title in real estate; a title to real estate held in abeyance, unasserted

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dormant title:

1. A title in real property held in abeyance[1]

1. A title to real estate held in abeyance, unasserted. [2]

1. An unclaimed title to real estate. [3]

(17c) n. 

1. Temporary inactivity; suspension. 

2. Property. A lapse in succession during which no person is vested with title.  abeyant. adj. [1]

1. In expectation, remembrance, and contemplation in law.

An estate in fee is in abeyance where there is no person in esse in whom it may vest and abide, although the law considers it as always potentially existing and ready to vest when a proper person in whom it may vest appears. 28 Am J2d Est § 10. [2]

1. A state of inactivity or suspension. [3]

     Excerpt from 1 Richard Burn, A New Law Dictionary 4 (1792).

     “Abeyance, from the French buyer, to expect, is that which is in expectation, remembrance, and intendment of law.  By a principle of law, in every land there is a fee simple in somebody, or else it is in abeyance; that is, though for the present it be in no man, yet it is in expectancy belonging to him that is next to enjoy the land.” [4]

buying and selling in dormant titles:

1. A particular form of maintenance which was prohibited by an English statute in 1541.

In some jurisdictions such transactions are prohibited by the common law.  In others, statutes forbid the transfer to a stranger of the title to land in adverse possession of another. 14 Am J2d Champ § 11. [2]

trading and dormant titles:

1. A form of maintenance of which cognizance has been taken by statute, the first statute on the subject being that of 32 Henry VII, chapter 9. 14 Am J2d Champ § 11. [2]


1. The act or right of legally or officially taking over a predecessor’s office, rank, or duties.

2. The acquisition of rights or property by inheritance under the laws of descent and distribution; DESCENT (1). — succeed, vb. [1]

1. Following another; succeeding to the rights of another, as where a new corporation which is a reorganization of another corporations takes the rights of the old corporation. 19 Am J2d Corp § 1524.

The passing of property in possession or enjoyment, present or future, and dispositions of property by will, deed, or laws of descent, by reason whereof any person shall become entitled in possession or expectancy to property upon the death of any other person. Wright v Blakeslee, 101 US 174, 25 L Ed 1048.

The word is one of technical meaning in the law and signifies the taking of property by inheritance or will from the state of a decedent, or by operation of law; and it is a word which clearly excludes those who take by deed, grant, gift, or any form of purchase or contract. Quarles v Clayton, 87 Tenn 308, 10 SW 505.
     See descent; hereditary succession; intestate succession; perpetual succession; universal succession. [2]

1. The passing of the property of a decedent by will or by inheritance (intestate succession), as opposed to taking title by deed, grant, gift, or contract.
     See hereditary succession; intestate succession.

2. Succeeding to the rights of another.  EXAMPLE: in the law of corporations, perpetual succession.

3. Following and taking the place of another.  EXAMPLE: succession in office, as when one officeholder takes the place of another who has retired, died, or not been reelected. [3]

vacant succession:
(18c) vb.

1. A succession that fails either because there are no known heirs or because the heirs have renounced the estate.

2. An estate that has suffered such a failure.  See ESCHEAT. [1]

1. An inheritance which no one claims and the heirs who are entitled to which are unknown. [2]

1. An inheritance that no one claims and the lawful heirs of which are unknown. [3]

in esse:

1. Alive; living; in being.
     See in being. [2]

1. In being.
     See in being; life in being. [3]

(14c) n.

1. Hist. The reversion of land ownership back to the lord when the immediate tenant dies without heirs.  See WRIT OF ESCHEAT.

2. Reversion of property (especially real property) to the state upon the death of an owner who has neither a will nor any legal heirs.

3. Property that has so reverted.  See heirless estate. — escheat, vb. — escheatable, adj. [1]

1. An obstruction of the course of descent by chance or accident. 27 Am J2d Each § 1.

The preferable right of the state to an estate left vacant because of the absence of persons legally entitled to make claim thereto. University of North Carolina v High Point, 203 NC 558, 166 SE 511.

The reversion of property to the state when the title fails. Delancy v State, 42 ND 630 174 NW 290.

The state does not take as an heir; escheat is not succession. 27 Am J2d Esch § 1.

A word deriving from the French or Norman French which, in its most comprehensive scope, means he reversion or forfeiture of property to the government upon the happening of some chance event or default. 27 Am J2d Esch § 1.

In England, real estate escheats, but he Crown takes personal property, where there is no owner, that is bona vacantis. 27 Am J2d Esch § 1. [2]

1. The right of the state to take title to property after the death of a person who has not disposed of the property by will and has left no heirs to inherit it. [3]

     Excerpt from George Crabb’s A history of English Law 79 (1st Am. ed. 1831):

     “Escheat, from the French eschoir, to fail incidentally, was the casual descent of lands and tenements to the lord propter defectum sangulnis [for lack of inheritable blood], that is, when the tenant dies without heirs; which was a part of the feudal system in every country.

     Excerpt from 4 James Kent’s Commentaries on American Law *423-24 (George Cornstock ed., 11th ed. 1866):

     “All escheats, under the English law, are declared to be strictly feudal, and to import the extinction of tenure….  The rule [was] that if lands were held in trust and the cestui que trust without heirs, the lands did not escheat to the crown, but the trustee, being in esse and in the legal seisin of the land, took the land discharged of the trust, and bound as owner for the feudal services.  But as the feudal tenures do not exist in this country, there are no private persons who succeed to the inheritance by escheat; and the state steps in the place of the feudal lord, by virtue of its sovereignty, as the original and ultimate proprietor of all the lands within its jurisdiction.


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[1]: Black’s Law Dictionary Deluxe Tenth Edition by Henry Campbell Black, Editor in Chief Bryan A. Garner. ISBN: 978-0-314-61300-4

[2]: Ballantine’s Law Dictionary with Pronunciations Third Edition by James A. Ballantine (James Arthur 1871-1949).  Edited by William S. Anderson.  © 1969 by THE LAWYER’S CO-OPERATIVE PUBLISHING COMPANY.  Library of Congress Catalog Card No. 68-30931

[3]:  Ballantine’s Law Dictionary Legal Assistant Edition
by Jack Ballantine 
(James Arthur 1871-1949).  Doctored by Jack G. Handler, J.D. © 1994 Delmar by Thomson Learning.  ISBN 0-8273-4874-6.


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