The principle of escheat originated in England during the Middle Ages. The basic premise was that property which remained without an owner or upon failure to make claim by a descendant’s heirs, reverted to the Sovereign from whom all property rights were derived. This concept was brought to the American colonies by the English settlers.
Upon the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, the State of North Carolina succeeded to the rights previously held by the Crown, including the right of escheat. The North Carolina Legislature adopted the University Act of 1789 which gave the newly formed University “all the property that has heretofore or shall hereafter escheat to the state.”
Throughout the early decades of the University, the escheat collections, though often minimal, provided a vital source of funds for the Institution. The Treasurer of the University was responsible for the collection of escheat property under the law. For the period through June 30, 1971, the University of North Carolina had collected and was maintaining a fund of $4,946,191.02.
State Treasurer Designated the Escheat Officer
Effective July 1, 1971, the State Treasurer was designated the Escheat Officer for the State of North Carolina with the responsibility for collection, management, and investment of moneys in the Escheat Fund.