England Escheats and Unclaimed Moneys (National Institute)

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The original content for this article was contributed by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies in June 2012. It is an excerpt from their course English: Court Records-Criminal, Civil and Ecclesiastical  by Dr. Penelope Christensen. The Institute offers over 200 comprehensive genealogy courses for a fee ($).

Escheats and Unclaimed Monies

Escheat is the lapsing of property to the crown or the lord of the manor on the owner’s dying intestate without heirs, or without adult heirs. In manorial records it is quite common to find a tenant guilty of a felony having his property escheated to the lord. From 1195 county escheators were appointed by the crown to oversee the collection of revenues from escheated property, and the system was only abolished in 1925.

Pinhorn defines two kinds of unclaimed monies from estates of deceased persons:

  • Funds controlled by the crown which arise when there are no ascertainable next-of-kin, which is interpreted as no spouse, issue, adopted children, parents, grandparents, or the descendants of parents or grandparents. The Statute of Limitations does not allow claims after 12 years, except in the case of fraud or recovery of trust property from a trustee.
  • Funds controlled by the Supreme Court which are typically where trust monies have been paid into court because there is real doubt as to the person entitled to them, or when there are conflicting claims. They consist of cash and securities which have not been dealt with for at least 15 years, the so-called dormant funds, and to which the statute of limitations does not apply. Annual official lists are published.

There are a number of unofficial publications which list heirs to unclaimed money or next-of-kin, and also unclaimed money agents not all of which are genuine. See also the section on Funds in Chancery.


Information in this Wiki page is excerpted from the online course English: Court Records-Criminal, Civil and Ecclesiastical offered by The National Institute for Genealogical Studies. To learn more about this course or other courses available from the Institute, see our website. We can be contacted at wiki@genealogicalstudies.com

We welcome updates and additions to this Wiki page.