Last updated: June 14. 2014 1:57AM - 434 Views
Lee Schroeder Contributing Columnist

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Today is Father’s Day in America. On Mother’s Day, moms often receive a phone call or a personal visit. However, on Father’s Day, dads are often presented with tangible gifts from family members. In fact, neckties have been the stereotypical Father’s Day gift for decades.

In today’s busy world, it is easier than ever for a dad to lose or misplace a tangible gift that he may receive for Father’s Day today. If dad does lose or misplace his gift, is he entitled to get it back?

Unless a gift is a house or parcel of real estate, the gift is considered “personal property” under the law. Personal property belongs to its owner no matter where that personal property is located. Therefore, dad has a right to retrieve his gift if it is ever lost or misplaced.

Sometimes, the owner of personal property cannot be located. This was the case recently when a couple in California found $11 Million of antique gold coins buried on their property. In situations where personal property is found without the ability to identify the property’s true owner, the law generally makes a distinction between “lost” and “misplaced” property.

“Misplaced” property is property that is found in a place that the true owner likely intended to place it. For example, a wallet that is found on the checkout counter at a restaurant was likely intentionally placed on that counter by the wallet’s owner. Thus, the wallet would be legally considered “misplaced.”

For misplaced property, if the owner cannot be located, the property belongs to the owner of the location where the personal property is found. Therefore, if a wallet without identification is left on a restaurant counter, that wallet (and its contents) will likely become the property of the restaurant. This is true even if the wallet is found by another customer of the restaurant. Of course, if the wallet includes identification or if the true owner returns for the wallet, the true owner is entitled to the wallet.

In contrast, “lost” property is property that is found in a place where the owner likely did not intend to place it. A wallet left half-open on the floor of a restaurant would generally be considered lost and not misplaced. A lost item from an owner who cannot be identified or located belongs to the person who found it.

The reality is that my dad has likely lost or misplaced more than one of the few tangible gifts I have given to him during my life. If somebody finds one of those items and knows it is my dad’s, my dad is entitled to have the item back. If my dad’s ownership cannot be identified, the new owner of the property will be determined based upon whether the item was lost by my dad or misplaced by my dad.

As a result, today, I encourage you to give to your dad (and others) the gifts of love and attention, which can never be lost or misplaced.

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