When someone dies with no known will or family, their estate - including money, buildings, or personal possessions - passes to the Crown as ownerless property
, or "bona vacantia".
Semantics matters here because this shift enables the edict to declare the abandoned slaves as free, rather than simply ownerless property that can be reclaimed again (Major, 1993).
As Halbertal and Shemesh note in their analysis of marriage refusal, the notion of hefker in this case does not reduce the body of the girl to an ownerless property, but rather highlights the potential vulnerability of an individual who finds herself stripped of legal status.
Andrew Bell, Bona Vacantia (stating, in reference to property for which the identity of the owner is unknown, "the most that can be said is that the owner is unlikely to come forward, so that it is not unreasonable to assimilate the case to one of ownerless property
"), in INTERESTS IN GOODS, supra note 13, at 207, 212.
547: "Once it is clear that ownership has been abandoned, at common law the question of title is simple because the Crown acquires ownership under the general principle that ownerless property
goes to the Crown (quod nullius est fit domini regis)."
First, despite the odd obiter statement to the contrary, (91) it seems tolerably clear that not all ownerless property
belongs to the Crown.
The treasury solicitor's department provides legal services to more than 180 central government departments and other publicly-funded bodies inEngland and Wales, and collects ownerless property
that belongs to the Crown.