Estate planning

Legal Ease: Basic legal principles on “finding” free money


Many of us enjoy dreaming of winning the lottery. Ironically, the law of statistics shows that it is almost impossible to win the lottery, and winning always requires a recent purchase of a ticket.

Instead, movies and our dreams sometimes offer us the prospect of “finding” free money. Recently, two different people in two different states “found” money. Their experiences remind us of some of the basic legal principles involved in finding money.

Earlier this summer, a teen in Minnesota clutched his wallet while fishing for walleye. The lost wallet previously contained $2,000 in cash. The teen located the wallet’s owner and delivered the wallet, including all of its contents, to the wallet’s owner.

Also, earlier this year, in Connecticut, a man walking through the parking lot of a bank found a bag containing $5,000 in cash that appeared to have fallen into the parking lot of the bank. The researcher stated that there was nothing in the bag but money.

In the Connecticut case, bank and other resource surveillance found the man and showed evidence that the money belonged to a local municipality. The bank claims that there was documentation of the owner of the money in the bag with the money. However, whether or not the researcher knows who the owner is, the legal conclusion is the same: the true owner of the money is always entitled to a refund.

Only if the real owner of the property can’t be found can someone else keep the money. If the money is found in a location where the owner likely intends to place the money (such as on a retailer’s self-checkout counter), the money is legally considered “misplaced” and the owner of the money location is considered “misplaced”. Money is entitled to keep money.

Conversely, if the money is found in a place where the owner probably did not intend the money to be (such as a bank parking lot), the money is considered “lost” and the finder gets the money found instead of the owner of the money. Property.

Regardless, if the original owner proves that the owner of the lost or missing money is the owner of the money, neither the person who found it nor the owner of the property where the money was found is entitled to keep the money.

However, it is worth noting that if someone purchases a chest of miscellaneous items at a real estate sale/auction and later finds money in a book in the chest, the money is considered part of the purchased item chest. In this case, the money, even though the seller does not consciously “know” that it is in the box, is not considered lost or misplaced.

If the finder of the “missing” money or the owner of the property where the “misplaced” money was found is lucky enough to be able to legally keep the money (because the true owner is unknown), the party keeping the money must report the “missing” money as income for tax purposes.

Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio attorney with Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. His practice is limited to business, real estate, estate planning, and agricultural issues in Northwest Ohio. It can be accessed at (email protected) Or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and you should seek specific advice from the licensed attorney of your choice based on the specific facts and circumstances you face.


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