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Finding Unclaimed Funds At the County Level  (continued)

If you've checked with the Bureau of Unclaimed Funds and nothing turned up, then most likely funds are being held by a specific Florida county as the result of an overbid on property auctioned off for delinquent taxes (also referred to as 'tax deed overbids'), or as the result of a court case in which the decedent was awarded funds but could not be located.

There are two ways to determine if money is being held by a county on your behalf or that of someone related to you. First, if you don't know in what county land or property may have been held, you can do a statewide search of all 67 Florida counties at once.

The following site CHARGES you to obtain a detailed record, BUT it will list records for the name you input for nearly all counties in Florida for free.

1. Go here
2. Click the blue 'SEARCH NOW' button in the center of the page.
3. Once the search page opens, in the first box entitled, 'Party Name' enter the name.
4. In the 'Document Type' (third box down) scroll and select 'Lis Pendens'
5. Hit the 'Search' button at the bottom of the panel.

Depending upon the name you may get a lot of entries. You can narrow this down if you have a good idea of the county beforehand. If you locate what looks like a record of interest, make note of the information listed and you can then contact that county directly. A list of all of Florida's 67 County Clerk's offices can be found here.






Tax deed sale overbid proceeds owed to the estate

(NOTE: This is a simplified explanation. If you own Florida property or are an heir to a Florida property with delinquent property taxes, you should consult with an attorney as soon as possible concerning your options.)  

In Florida, when real property taxes go unpaid, counties are required by law to hold a public auction at which revenue is raised by offering tax lien certificates to bidders for the delinquent taxes. Tax lien certificates must be held a minimum of two years before they can be redeemed.

A tax lien certificate that is redeemed the Clerk does not pay the certificate holder directly. Instead, an auction, known as a tax deed sale is held by the Clerk of Court's office. When this happens, for all intents and purposes, the ownership of the property passes to the highest bidder, or if no bid is offered, title passes to the original redeeming tax lien certificate holder.

The amount the winning bid exceeds the originally submitted tax lien certificate(s) (and other costs) may be, and often is, thousands of dollars in excess of the amount actually owed. This excess is called the "overbid" or "tax overbid proceeds." Under Florida law, (F.S. 197.582), overbid proceeds are first used to satisfy any outstanding claims or liens, and anything remaining afterwards is held for claim by the previous property owner or their heirs.  

Tax deed sale overbid proceeds are held by the County for a period of one (1) year. If these funds are not claimed within that time, they are forwarded to Florida's Bureau of Unclaimed Funds.   

If you are an heir and receive notice that overbid proceeds are being held for claim by the estate, you will probably need a court order to claim these funds. The County will be able to tell you precisely what  documentation you need to provide them to claim your funds. Often this includes an order from the probate court directing to whom funds are payable. Once the probate action is completed, the county attorney will review your claim and probate order and authorize release of the funds to you by the Clerk of the Court.   

Court registry funds owed to the estate

While more rare, there are instances where a decedent was awarded funds in a court case, either as a beneficiary or a plaintiff, and the court could not locate the decedent while living to notify them. In these cases, the court holds the funds in what is known as the "Court Registry."

The process to locate these funds is the same as that used when searching for tax deed overbid proceeds (See "Finding Unclaimed Funds At the County Level" above).

Relax. If you have been told that time is of the essence and that you may lose your money if you do not act immediately, know that funds held by the State of Florida's Bureau of Unclaimed Funds are permanently held for the benefit of claimants,  and can always be claimed. From the Bureau's website:


"Unclaimed Funds are deposited into the State School Fund and used to support public schools. However, the original amount reported can always be claimed by the owner, or his/her heirs..."


Funds held by counties from a tax deed sale (see more below) are forwarded on to the state's Bureau of Unclaimed Funds after one year, so those funds aren't lost, either.

You can contact the Florida Bureau of Unclaimed Funds here  to confirm the funds are being held, confirm what documents they'll require from you to recover the funds, and gain peace of mind knowing the funds aren't going anywhere until you do. An FAQ for claimants is located here.






HOW TO FIND YOUR UNCLAIMED FUNDS

Finding Unclaimed Funds At the State Level

In Florida, most unclaimed funds are held either by the state, or by a county as the result of a tax deed sale or more rarely, a court proceeding. If you've been contacted but don't know specifically where funds are located, the first place to start is at the state level, Florida's Bureau of Unclaimed Funds, here.

If you're seeking funds specifically in your name and find them, you'll probably be able to file for a direct recovery. "Found money" is nice!

If, however, funds are being held in the name of an estate for which you are an heir or beneficiary, in all likelihood you'll need a probate order to collect the funds. There are exceptions to this rule so be sure to discuss this with an agent at the Bureau.


Finding Unclaimed Funds At the County Level

If you've checked with the Bureau of Unclaimed Funds and nothing turned up, then most likely funds are being held by a specific Florida county as the result of an overbid on property auctioned off for delinquent taxes (also referred to as 'tax deed overbids'), or as the result of a court case in which the decedent was awarded funds but could not be located.

There are two ways to determine if money is being held by a county on your behalf or that of someone related to you. First, if you don't know in what county land or property may have been held, you can do a statewide search of all 67 Florida counties at once.

                          (cont'd top of next column)

If you been told that you'll need a probate order to recover funds, either by Florida's Division of Unclaimed Funds or a county attorney (See more on Tax Deed overbids or Court Registry, below), an abbreviated form of probate known as a Summary Administration may be available to the estate.

This type of probate action typically lowers the court costs and legal fees, and shortens the period of time required to complete the administration. And if you've heard this phrase;

The hiring of a Florida probate attorney is an important decision that should not be based solely upon advertisements. Before you decide, ask us to send you free written information about our qualifications and experience. This site is designed to provide general information only. Content on this site should not be interpreted as specific legal advice, or the formation of an attorney/client relationship.


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    "We've located funds held on your behalf..." 

then you've probably been  contacted by a third party, commonly referred to as 'Locator' or 'Recovery Agent.' Often you are not told 'where' these funds are located, just that for a percentage of the recovery, typically 30-50%, the informant will offer to obtain the money for you.  You may even have some idea that these funds are located in Florida, but do not know where precisely? You may also hear;

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FLORIDA UNCLAIMED FUNDS

What they are, where they're located and how to recover them.