A county may have unclaimed or apparently abandoned funds left in accounts in county offices from several sources. All property held for the owner by any court (including a federal court), public corporation, public authority or agency, public officer, or a political subdivision that has remained unclaimed by the owner for more than one (1) year is presumed abandoned. Exceptions to this rule include property in the custody or control of any state or federal court in any pending action, as well as property that is otherwise disposed of by law. Property described above, without regard to any activity or inactivity within the past one (1) year, is also presumed abandoned if the owner is known to the holder (county) to have died leaving no one to take his or her property by will or by intestate succession. T.C.A. § 66-29-110.
County offices holding funds or other tangible or intangible property that is presumed abandoned must file a report containing the required statutory information with the state treasurer before May 1 of each year. All unclaimed funds and intangible property presumed abandoned must be delivered with the report to the treasurer. Tangible property must be held for 120 days awaiting further instructions from the treasurer or, absent those, delivered to the treasurer at the end of that time. T.C.A. § 66-29-115. Any person delivering property to the treasurer is relieved of liability in respect to that property. If someone submits a claim to the county for property already delivered to the treasurer, then the county may pay the claim, and the treasurer will reimburse the county. T.C.A. § 66-29-116.
Within 120 days of filing the report, the holder of the property must use all diligence to find the owner and must send written notice to the apparent owner at his last known address. The holder must also maintain a record of the last known address for 10 years. T.C.A. § 66-29-113. After the reports are submitted, the treasurer is required to publish a list of the names and last known addresses of the apparent owners. Publication should be done in a manner designed to inform owners that their property has been reported and where further information may be obtained. T.C.A. § 66-29-114.
At the request of any local government whose yearly total for abandoned property exceeds $100, all unclaimed funds that have been held by the treasurer for at least eighteen (18) months, less administrative costs, are returned. The funds go into the county general fund, except those necessary to maintain a sufficient amount in the unclaimed property accounts to insure prompt payment of any claims. T.C.A. § 66-29-121. If a person claims an interest in property that has been returned to the county from the state, and the claim is allowed, that person receives the property without deduction for administrative costs or service charges. The county must submit an annual report of the claims received on a form provided by the treasurer; this report is to be filed before September 1 and should include claims received as of the previous June 30. T.C.A. § 66-29-123.
County officials who fail to carry out their responsibilities regarding unclaimed property may be subject to sanctions. First, the treasurer may examine the records of any person whom the treasurer believes may have failed to file the required reports. T.C.A. § 66-29-127. Any person who fails to report abandoned property or to perform other required duties shall be fined $25 for each day the report is withheld, but not more than $1,000. Furthermore, if a holder fails to deliver property as required to the treasurer, then the treasurer may compel delivery in an appropriate court and shall assess a civil penalty equal to twenty-five percent (25%) of the value of the property that should have been delivered. T.C.A. § 66-29-129.