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Florida's law dealing with unclaimed property is being challenged in federal court

A man uses a key to open a safe deposit box.
Unclaimed property in Florida is turned over to the state. Anyone can search for unclaimed property at FLTreasurehunt.gov

A St. Petersburg resident has filed a potential class-action lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a law that directs the state’s handling of unclaimed property.

Attorneys for Alieda Maron filed the lawsuit Friday in federal court in Tallahassee against state Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who oversees the unclaimed-property program.

The program involves people’s property that is held by such things as banks and insurance companies. When the property is believed to be unclaimed, it is turned over to the state. Examples are money, unclaimed insurance proceeds and items in safe-deposit boxes. Unclaimed money is deposited into what is known as the State School Trust Fund, which helps support public schools. The state also periodically holds auctions of unclaimed items.

If owners or their heirs find out about the unclaimed property, they can recover money from the state. But the lawsuit contends, in part, that the unclaimed property law is unconstitutional because it does not provide “just compensation” to the owners.

It said the law “prohibits the state from paying any interest reflecting the time value or other value of an owner’s property. Accordingly, the act effectively provides the state with an interest-free loan of unclaimed private property funds that the act directs to be co-mingled with the state’s school fund while in the state’s custody.”