This section is from the book "The Law Of Real Property and Other Interests In Land", by Herbert Thorn Dike Tiffany. Also available from Amazon: A Treatise on the Modern Law of Real Property and Other Interests in Land .
At common law, as before stated, an escheat of land occurred in favor of the feudal lord in case the tenure terminated by reason of the failure of inheritable blood, such failure arising from the corruption of the blood of the tenant by attainder of felony, as well as from the death of the tenant vith-out any ascertainable heir.1 In this country, in those states in which tenure is to be regarded as nonexistent,2 the feudal conception of escheat cannot obtain, though even there the right of the state to land the owner of which dies intestate without heirs would no doubt be sustained as an attribute of sovereignty. Any question upon the subject, however, is avoided in most, if not all, the states by statutory provisions that, upon the failure of other heirs, the land shall pass to the state or to some state agency.3 This right of the state to land in default of heirs is ordinarily spoken of as "escheat."4
An "escheat" of this character may occur in states where aliens are forbidden to hold lands, as a result of the absence of all heirs other than aliens, and likewise owing to the inability of one, otherwise entitled to inherit, to trace his descent except through an alien.48
1. 8 Blackst. Comm. 244 et seq; ante, Sec. 9.
2. Ante, Sec. 13.
3. 1 Stimson's Am. St. Law, Sec.Sec. 400, 1151-1154, 3125.
4. As to whether a county acquiring land, under the state statute, took "by the intestate laws of the state" within the inheritance tax law, see 29 Harv. Law Rev. 455, discussing and approving People v. Richardson, 111. 103 N. E. 1033, in favor of the liability to the state. 4a. Post, Sec. 595.
But the term "escheat" is not, it seems applicable to the forcible acquisition by the state of land which an alien has, in violation of law, undertaken to acquire by purchase, though the term is frequently so used, this being in the nature of the enforcement of a forfeiture by the state, rather than an escheat.5