The Supreme Court: Espousing Easier Escheat

Each year billions of dollars' worth of property is abandoned all over the U.S. When that property is something as tangible as buildings or land, there is no question about who takes it over.

The state in which it is located gets it through "escheat," a feudal doctrine by which the land of a man who died without heirs reverted to the original grantor, or lord of the manor. But escheat (from the Latin ex cadere, to fall out) raises prickly problems with such abandoned intangible property as unclaimed checks because the debts involved have no one physical location. Which...

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