What Is the Personal Items Abandonment Law?

The law of abandonment of personal property applies when an owner intentionally forfeits ownership of items other than real property, explains LegalMatch. In general, common law follows the "finders, keepers" rule - a person who takes possession of abandoned property owns it - though some states have modified the rule.

Abandonment exists when an owner purposefully leaves personal property in a place that indicates he no longer wants to own it, according to LegalMatch. The law distinguishes between lost and abandoned property. Lost property is property that the owner intends to own but has misplaced. Unlike abandoned property, owners retain ownership rights to lost property. Also, the law treats real property, such as land and buildings, differently than personal property. To acquire abandoned real property, a person must acquire a title from the party that owns it rather than simply seizing the property.