The Florida Treasure Hunt
Have you ever gone on a treasure hunt? Long gone are the days when you need to go on an adventure to discover lost property. Now, you can simply search a website run by the Florida Division of Unclaimed Property for lost property held by the State of Florida in your name.
The State of Florida currently holds over one billion dollars in unclaimed property including tangible and intangible assets. The tangible assets consist of jewelry, watches, and rare coins which are collected from abandoned safe deposit boxes. The State of Florida holds on to these items for an additional two years before they are sold at the Florida Unclaimed Property Auction. The intangible assets consist of money and securities from unclaimed wages and dormant accounts.
The State of Florida serves as the guardian of lost treasure because of the laws regarding escheated property. An escheat is the authority of the state to acquire title to property for which there is no owner. The escheat laws guarantee that property is not left in limbo and without an owner. In Florida, property is generally presumed abandoned if unclaimed within a certain period of time. If the true owner cannot be identified or located, or if the owner dies without any identifiable or locatable heirs or beneficiaries, then such property escheats to the State.
Our office often deals with escheated property in the administration of a decedent’s estate. The most common situation occurs when a decedent passes away intestate, meaning without a valid will, and without heirs who are legally entitled to inherit the decedent’s estate. The heirs who are entitled to inherit a decedent’s estate are limited by the laws of intestacy. If no such heirs exist, then the decedent’s estate escheats to the State.
Property can also escheat in the administration of a testator’s estate. Florida law provides that any part of a decedent’s estate not effectively disposed of by a will passes to the decedent’s heirs under the intestacy laws. For example, if a testator provides in his will that his entire estate will pass to his son, if alive, and if not, to his issue, per stirpes, and the son dies without any issue, the testator’s estate will pass under the laws of intestacy. If there are no identifiable or locatable heirs, the testator’s entire estate escheats to the State.
The State of Florida holds escheated property for a certain period of time to allow for the true owner to assert a claim. If a valid claim is timely asserted, the claimant will receive the escheated property from the State. If no valid claim is timely asserted, then the State has an absolute right to the property and it becomes part of the State School Fund.
You can visit the Florida Division of Unclaimed Property’s website at FLTreasureHunt.org to search for any lost property being held in your name. You can file a claim directly online or you can contact our office for assistance in reclaiming your lost treasure.
Happy Treasure Hunting!