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Unclaimed Property in California Laws and Regulations

ByEmmet McMahan, writer
Apr 15, 2011
Image Credit: Utah778 / Getty Images
> Business Basics

Use California unclaimed properties laws and regulations to return and locate unclaimed property

Unclaimed property in California laws and regulations are partially derived from the common law of property. They generally define unclaimed property as property which has left the original owner’s possession without directly entering the possession of another party.

California state unclaimed property laws that are relevant to a particular case depend heavily on the circumstances under which the unclaimed property is found. Unclaimed property may generally be grouped into the following categories:

  1. Lost property is found in a location where the owner did not intend to leave it and is not likely to find it. The finder of CA state unclaimed property is entitled to possession against everyone but the true owner. One exception to this rule occurs when a trespasser finds lost property while on private land.
  2. Mislaid property is found in a location where the owner did intend to leave it and simply forgot to pick it up. Mislaid property must be returned to the owner.
  3. Abandoned property of California is found in a place where the owner intended to leave it. However, the condition of the property is such that it is unlikely that the owner intends to reclaim it. California abandoned property belongs to the finder.

Study the laws that relate to owners of California unclaimed property

Laws on unclaimed property commonly determine when unclaimed property must be returned to the owner. Unclaimed property laws and regulations represent a valuable resource for owners who wish to locate their unclaimed property. The California State Controller's Office is in charge of locating unclaimed property for an individual.

Review the laws that are specific to holders of state of California unclaimed property

These laws most commonly affect financial institutions that have inactive or dormant accounts. They can also determine when the holder becomes the owner of the unclaimed property.

Examine state of CA unclaimed property law that is specific to finders

Unclaimed property laws for finders may regulate fees that the finder may charge the owner for delivering, locating or recovering the unclaimed property. These laws may also determine when found property reverts to the finder.
California State Controller's Office provides information on the laws regarding finders of unclaimed property in California. LexisNexis provides the specific laws for unclaimed property finders in Contra Costa County.
  • The Uniform Unclaimed Property Act is a key piece of federal legislation that affects unclaimed property of California. The Act seeks to address the problems of unclaimed property that arise from its origins in English common law. The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws first drafted the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act in 1981 and last revised it in 1995.
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Emmet McMahan
Emmet McMahan
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