Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Abandonment Definition:

The leaving behind of property; an indifference as to the fate of a chattel.

Related Terms: Abandon, Derelict

A term of property law and of family law.

In Manning v. Algard Estate, Justice Butler used these words:

"Abandonment is the voluntary relinquishment of a chattel by the owner with the intention of terminating ownership, possession and control."

In the context of real property, Hockin v Whellan, the Manitoba Court of Queen's Bench held:

"[T]o abandon a homestead a party must forsake and leave it with the intent never to return to it again as a homestead. Abandonment must be actual and not merely intentional.

"After having intended to abandon he may change his mind."

In an Alberta Court of Queen's Bench decision, Thomas v Canada, Mr. Thomas found $18,000 in cash in his postal box. An investigation failed to identify and locate the purported sender of the envelope. Justice Trussler ordered that the money remain Mr. Trussler's property in adopting these words from the 4th Edition of Principles of Property Law by Bruce Ziff:

"Orthodoxy has it that the finder of a chattel acquires title that is good against the entire world except for the true owner. That oft-cited proposition is a little misleading. Not all found property is necessarily presently owned. A recovered item may have been abandoned by its previous owner.

"An abandonment involves the converse of possession-taking: there must be an intention to relinquish title; that is, an indifference as to the fate of a chattel, coupled with sufficient acts of divestment. It is self-evident that a finder of ownerless property can face no superior claim. In addition, it is not only the true owner who may assert a prior right, but anyone with a valid a subsisting entitlement, including, theoretically, some previous finder.

"Therefore, a more accurate general proposition is that a finder acquires title good against the world, except for those with a continuing antecedent claim. That is a general statement about the relative rights of owners."


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