What Happens to Found Money in California?


Quick Answer

California law stipulates that anyone who finds money and takes possession of it must return it to the owner without a guarantee of compensation. If the owner is unknown, and the amount of money is over $100, the finder must turn it in to the police. Under most circumstances, if the police cannot locate the owner, the money is returned to the person who found it.

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Full Answer

When handing the money over to the police, the finder signs an affidavit detailing where and how it was found, whether the owner is known, and that no portion is withheld. If the police locate the owner, they return the money, minus a fee for storage and care. Otherwise, they hold the money for 90 days. If no one claims the money, and the amount is over $250, the police publish a notice of the found money for one week in a general circulation newspaper. If no one proves ownership, the finder pays the cost of the publication of the notice and keeps the money. If the amount is less than $250, the money is given to the finder after 90 days without publication of notice. However, a person who finds money during employment by a public agency is not allowed to keep the money.

Money found in the form of forgotten or misplaced bank accounts, safe deposit box contents, uncashed checks or money orders, certificates of deposit, stocks, bonds, and other forms of income is turned in to the California State Controller's Office by financial institutions, insurance companies and other businesses. People can search for lost money and file a claim on the Controller's Office website.

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