Abeyance is the state that a property is left in if it does not actually have a true owner. This may happen for a variety of reasons. Usually, if a home has been occupied by a family over many generations, and the final occupant of the property passes away, the family or heirs that are left behind residing away from the property are left in a difficult situation as the occupant who had passed away may not have been the owner that was named on the deeds of the property.
For inheritance purposes, this can be a difficult dispute to settle and it can hold up inheritance proceedings for a family. If the previous owner was a parent and the children want to dispute ownership, it can be difficult to settle who the house should go to. If the deceased is a step parent and had only received the house through the death of a spouse, again, difficulties in settling ownership of the property will arise.
It is possible when there are multiple heirs, or heirs by marriage that they will be able to proposition the crown court to end the abeyance proceedings. This claim is made in the form of a petition appeal, and it is up to the heir or co heir to prove that they are indeed entitled to inherit the rights of ownership of the property.
Abeyance stems from the 18th century when the rights to inherit property was only granted to male heirs. This meant that if a father only bore daughters, the property would remain in a state of abeyance until the daughters, or their granddaughters provided a son. The next male that was related to the prior male heir by blood would be allowed to claim the property as his own. If the daughters were to marry however and there was no other male heir by blood, then it was acceptable for the husbands to issue an appeal to end the abeyance on the property so that they could inherit the property for themselves. This was a difficult arrangement, and it was even common for properties to remain in abeyance for centuries, waiting for a male hair to claim them. It was rare that a husband of a female heir would be allowed to claim a property that was in abeyance.
Times have since changed however, and abeyance is not as common as it once was. The properties that are currently in a state of abeyance are those that have been inherited by family members for centuries and deciding on their rightful ownership can be a lengthy and difficult procedure.