Bank lock boxes, or safe deposit boxes, are a little-understood function of banks for most people. Anyone can rent a lock box at their local bank and keep their valuables inside.
The most common reason banks declare lock boxes abandoned is that the rent on the box is no longer being paid. The death of the owner is a common trigger for this. Another time this happens is when the owner of the box closes the checking account used to pay for the box.
State laws vary about when a box can be declared abandoned, but the general process is the same. The state of Florida, for example, allows banks to send letters when the rent is three months late that gives the owners 30 days to pay the rent or close the box. If the owner does not respond the box must be inventoried and stored. The contents are the sent to the state unclaimed property office and auctioned.
Property can not be reclaimed after the auction. However, the state holds the money in trust for you (minus certain fees) at its unclaimed property office. This office is usually part of the state treasury department. There is no statute of limitations on claiming this money.
Tracie Harris lives in Atlanta and has been writing lifestyle articles since 2008. W.W. Norton is publishing her work in "The Seagull Guide" due out in 2011. Her writing has also appeared in "The Historian" and The Good Cook. Harris is a former social studies teacher. She holds a B.A. in history and secondary education from Agnes Scott College.