DEFINITION of 'Abandoned Property'

Assets such as cash, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, uncashed checks, land, life insurance policies and the contents of safe deposit boxes that have been turned over to the state after several years of inactivity. Some states hold onto such property and allow the original owners and heirs to claim it indefinitely. In other states, if the property goes unclaimed for too long, it may become the state's property through a process known as escheatment. One purpose of abandoned property laws is to relieve the asset holder of liability.

BREAKING DOWN 'Abandoned Property'

In the United States, state laws determine when an asset is legally considered abandoned. In Massachusetts, for example, a bank account that has seen no activity for more than three years will be turned over to the state, but owners can file a claim to collect their abandoned property at any time. To locate abandoned property, also called unclaimed property, individuals can do a free search through state-sponsored websites or they can contact the state treasury or comptroller's office. States may also try to locate owners of unclaimed property through letters and newspaper announcements.

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