Bona Vacantia

Definition of 'Bona Vacantia'


A legal term for the situation in which property is left without any clear owner. The precise handling of such property varies depending on the jurisdiction. In most cases, the property is held by the government, and may be recovered by rightful owners or heirs. Bona vacantia property, which remains unclaimed after a certain period of time, sometimes reverts to government ownership. In other cases, the government is obliged to serve as custodian for bona vacantia property into perpetuity.

Investopedia explains 'Bona Vacantia'


Common situations where property can become abandoned are when a person dies with no known heirs or next of kin, when a business is dissolved or when the property owner leaves a jurisdiction without leaving any contact information.

In the U.S. bona vacantia property is handled at the state level. Each state maintains its own unclaimed property office, where it is possible to search for bona vacantia property that may belong to you.


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