The Law of Finders in Alberta
In the case of Moroz Estate v Gagne, 2020 ABQB 683 Master Smart looked at the law of finders. Both of the Morozes had passed away by 2016. They had squirreled away money and gold wafers with a value of $500,000 in the house. The house was sold by the executor of the estate of the Morozes, and the new owners were possibly delighted to find the money located throughout the house. The owners attempted to deposit $100,000 into the bank. The police were called and litigation followed.
The lawsuit was intended to find out who had a stronger claim to the money.
At paragraph 20 master smart noted:
...a finder acquires title that is good against the world, except for those with a continuing antecedent claim.
And at 22:
As cited above, ownership can be lost when the true owner abandons the personal property.
At 23: the court said:
Similarly, the following definition was adopted in Wicks v Harnett, 2007 CanLII 19622 (Ont Sup Ct J) at para 23 [Wicks]) and Ericsson Inc v Novatel Inc, 2001 ABCA 199 at para 14:
Abandonment occurs when there is “a giving up, a total desertion, and absolute relinquishment” of private goods by the former owner. It may arise when the owner with the specific intent of desertion and relinquishment casts away or leaves behind his property... (Simpson v Gowers, (supra) quoting from R. A. Brown on The Law of Property, 2nd ed. (1955) at p.9) [Court’s emphasis].
Master Smart did not ultimately grant summary judgment as there was some question about the executor's intentions in the circumstances related to the cleaning and sale of the house.
If you come across property and you are unsure if you have a claim to it, please feel free to contact us.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice. No solicitor client relationship is formed through this article. The reader is encouraged to retain counsel for advice in these matters.