Abandoned Personal Property Laws in Georgia

The State of Georgia has a code of laws that governs how abandoned personal property should be handled. When dealing with personal property, the laws become extensive to incorporate all situations. There are two things that come into consideration: the type of property and the length of abandonment. Consider the property abandonment laws in Georgia and the appropriate actions for Georgia residents to take when dealing with such property.

Official Code of Georgia Annotated Sections

Although individuals must ultimately follow federal laws, abandoned personal property laws by state can vary greatly. For Georgians, the Official Code of Georgia Annotated Sections 44-12-190 through 44-12-235 contains the regulations for abandoned personal property. These sections of the code of law define the term "abandoned personal property" across many situations and what to do in each case.

Code 44-12-193

In order to know if the personal property meets the criteria of abandoned, you must know what the law considers abandoned. The Georgia Code 44-12-193 states: "When property held, issued, or owing in ordinary course of holder's business presumed abandoned:

Except as provided in Article 17B of Title 10, all tangible and intangible property, including any income or increment thereon, less any lawful charges, that is held, issued, or owing in the ordinary course of the holder's business and has remained unclaimed by the owner for ​more than five years​ after it became payable or distributable is presumed abandoned, except as otherwise provided by this article. Property is payable or distributable for the purpose of this article notwithstanding the owner's failure to make demand or to present any instrument or document required to receive payment."

In summary, most personal property is considered abandoned after five years of non-action by the owner toward the property. You can use this as the mark to gauge abandonment according to the property abandonment laws in Georgia.

Some Exceptions to the Five Year Rule

However, this length of time may vary depending on the property and the situation. Several instances where the five-year rule does not apply include:

  • U.S. savings bonds are marked abandoned after ​3 years
  • Payroll checks are considered abandoned after ​1 year
  • Apartments are abandoned after ​30 days​ of inoccupancy (other rules apply)
  • Safety deposit boxes are abandoned after ​2 years​ of not being opened
  • Traveler's checks have ​15 years​ before they are considered abandoned

Property Abandonment Laws in GA Protocol

The protocol for abandoned personal property laws by state varies drastically. The Unclaimed Property Act of Georgia (section 44-12-190 of Georgia code law) ensures the safety of the personal property as well as relieves any holders of the property of any financial burdens from the property. In addition, this law facilitates the potential reunification of the owner with the property if at all possible.

Steps for Filing A Report for Unclaimed Property

The laws clearly state that anyone needing to report unclaimed property to the state of Georgia must follow certain steps before filing the report. If individuals don't follow the protocol, the state may reject the file or fine the holder for not doing their due diligence.

There are three distinct steps for filing an abandoned property report:

  • Step 1. The unclaimed property must be identified. Within the Act, you will find codes that correlate to the specific property i.e. checking account would fall under code AC01. (Page 3 of the Act contains all the codes and their expiration timelines).
  • Step 2. Any holder of the property must write a due diligence letter to the last known address of the owner within ​60-120 days​ of dormancy.
  • Step 3: If no contact was successful, the report can be filed with the Georgia Department of Revenue, Unclaimed Personal Property Division.

Once the report is filed, the state assumes the responsibility for the unclaimed personal property and will keep it on file in a database for owners and heirs of the property to find it.