gestfeðri (ON) noun

Refers specifically to someone who has died while lodging with someone else and has no known heirs. A person who was a gestfeðri was permitted to give away their property before they died or through a testament (gjaferfð), but if no such testament was made, the householder would be entitled to inherit the property of the deceased up to a certain amount (six eyrir according to Js Ert 17 and FrL ArbB 5). If the heirless person owned more property than this, it was to be split into equal shares between the householder and the king. Regardless the householder was obligated to wait for three years in case an heir was made known. The same procedure was applicable to a person who has died on another’s land or ship.

The term gestfeðri and related nomenclature appears only infrequently in the laws, so it is unclear whether it refers to a specific type of person or a description of an individual. Earlier dictionaries class it as a noun, whereas the ONP has elected to identify it as an adjective.

heirless man OIce Js Ert 17
person with no heirs ONorw FrL ArbB 3 Refs:

Brandt 1880; CV; F; NGL V s.v. gestfeðra; ONP

  • ‘gestfeðri’. A Lexicon of Medieval Nordic Law.