Escheat is the common law doctrine by which unclaimed property is returned to the Crown. It is a complex and arcane aspect of our legal system affecting many hundreds of properties each year that requires specialist advice to navigate. 

Our real estate team has unique expertise in the common law doctrines of bona vacantia and escheat. We are The Crown Estate's sole legal adviser in the administration of freehold property that may be subject to escheat. 

We investigate and administer new escheat cases, as well as some of the many thousands of accumulated cases. Our aim is to protect The Crown Estate from risk and, where appropriate, return escheated property to private ownership. 

We work with a range of clients, including agencies of government, professional and public bodies. We also provide guidance to other solicitors and members of the public who require expert advice in this area. 

Find out more in our escheat guidance note.

Areas of focus

Our bona vacantia and escheat expertise includes the following:

  • Investigation of escheat enquiries.
  • Disposal of escheated properties.
  • Covenant disputes.
  • Advise on proposed law reform.
  • Dealing with various agencies of government in relation to properties subject to escheat.
Meet the team
Richard Owen Partner
  • Landowner
  • Bona Vacantia and Escheat
  • Real Estate
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Richard Read Partner
  • Real Estate Investment
  • International Real Estate
  • Hotels, Leisure and Tourism
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Zoë Longman Legal Director
  • Head of Residential Real Estate
  • Real Estate
  • Bona Vacantia and Escheat