Property is considered abandoned when the owner leaves behind the property with the intent to give up ownership completely. The fate and legal ownership of the property after abandonment varies depending on the state in which the property was abandoned, says Legal Match.
Abandonment can only apply to personal property and not real property, according to Cornell University Law School. Personal property, also called chattel, refers to movable, tangible goods. Real property most often refers to real estate or land. A person can claim abandoned property once he has taken definite steps to find the rightful owner.
Some states have enacted the Uniform Unclaimed Property Act which addresses abandonment of intangible personal property, such as shares of stock, bank accounts, insurance proceeds and other investment securities. Financial institutions hold much of this intangible personal property, making them the legal owners. The Uniform Unclaimed Property Act defines when intangible personal property is considered abandoned so that financial institutions cannot hold onto these investments in perpetuity, as stated by the Uniform Law Commission. All states require financial institutions and brokerage firms to make a diligent effort to locate the owner of an account before it can be considered abandoned or unclaimed, reports the Unites States Security and Exchange Commission.