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The Cost of Found Money Ignoring escheatment laws could leave your business open to liability.

By Gwen Moran Edited by Frances Dodds

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Some business owners may look at an uncashed vendor check or unredeemed gift card as found money, but ignoring laws about abandoned property--also called escheatment--could be costly.

Escheatment is a common law--practiced in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as Quebec, British Columbia and Alberta in Canada--that reverts unclaimed property to the state of the property owner's last-known address after a defined period of time.

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) says that state treasurers and other agencies are currently holding $32.9 billion in unclaimed property. And according to Brooke Spotswood, an attorney in Mathews, Va., who handles escheatment matters, state treasury departments are conducting more audits to collect abandoned property on companies' books. "While they're mostly targeting big companies, any company with more than $100,000 in revenue should be paying attention," she says.

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