The Edmond Sun

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June 21, 2013

ASK A LAWYER: Unclaimed property has nothing to do with ‘finders-keepers’

EDMOND — EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a weekly series of columns written by attorneys at Lester, Loving & Davies law firm in Edmond.

Q: What is the Unclaimed Property Program?

A:
The Oklahoma State Treasurer’s office collects and safeguards unclaimed property. The office maintains a website to reunite each item of unclaimed property with its rightful owner. Start your search at http://www.ok.gov/treasurer/Unclaimed_Property/.  

We will fully discuss the method of finding and collecting unclaimed property next week, but for now, let’s discuss the reason unclaimed property systems exist. I think of these systems, which every state has, as grown-up retorts to the playground claim of “finders-keepers.” I have been an expert on the intricacies of the “finders-keepers” rule since Vernon Dithers misapplied the rule to claim ownership of my favorite toy on the playground in first grade.

Vernon Dithers is not a real name — at least not the name of a real person known to me. I made up the name because it has a sinister ring to it and accurately portrays the personality of the real culprit in my story. (I protect the villain’s real name on the chance that he now knows how to accurately apply the “finders-keepers” rule and has turned into an upstanding member of society.) You see, I loaned my favorite toy, a metallic-silver Corvette Stingray, to Vernon on a Monday, and then forgot. When I saw him with it on Wednesday, the worm refused to return it, citing the “finders-keepers” rule. Now, every civilized first-grader knows that the “finders-keepers” rule does not apply to items purposely entrusted to you by their rightful owner. But Vernon refused to acknowledge this truth, and took the car home. The authorities declined my invitation to intervene.

To resolve this type of dispute, the law requires the holders of property whose owners can’t be found to deliver the property to the state along with the names, last known addresses and other identifying information of the owners. The length of time a holder may hold property without delivering it to the state depends on the type of property, and ranges from one year for things like utility deposits, to 15 years for things like travelers checks. Most property must be reported after the holder has no contact with the owner for five years.

We’ll discuss the details of claiming property from the Unclaimed Property Division next week. In the meantime, if you see a mean looking 47-year-old man clutching a metallic-silver toy Corvette Stingray, slip him a copy of this article.

MATT HOPKINS is an attorney for Lester, Loving & Davies P.C. More information is available at lldlaw.com. Send questions to questions@lldlaw.com.

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