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    Abandoned personal property?

    Jurisdiction / State: Wisconsin

    For the past 15+ years we have been using a pull-behind driveway road grader to maintain our gravel driveway. My wife was under the assumption that the grader was left behind by her ex-husband. Since the marital property settlement agreement stated that she was awarded everything she had in her possession, we assumed it was ours. We were surprised one day when one of her ex-husband's buddies showed up, came onto our property, without permission and took the grader. He later claimed he is the owner. We maintained it and used it for more than 15 years never knowing this other party even existed. Neither party has documentation to prove ownership. Was this property considered abandoned? Which party has legal claim to it?


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    I would tell him to return the grader or I would call the police. The grader has long since been abandoned property and even if it wasn't he can't just announce that it's his. He would have to prove it was his to take it.

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    mjb1953 (04-09-2010)

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    Thanks for the reply. We did call the other party and ask that the grader be returned, but he refused. We did report it as a theft to the sheriff's department. The grader was eventually confiscated and transported to the police impound lot. The case is now in the hands of the D.A. who will determine whether this is a theft or something that will be decided in civil court. My guess is the D.A. won't touch this one and recommend it go to civil court.

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    That is my guess too. I would go ahead and file a suit in trover to have the property returned to you.

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    mjb1953 (04-09-2010)

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    I dunno... if they came onto your property unannounced and simply took it, I would think a theft charge would be adequate.

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    mjb1953 (04-10-2010)

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    Moose I agree, but he said the police wouldn't touch it.

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    No, the police took the report and recovered the property. It is now in an impound lot waiting on the DA. I would expect the DA to follow through with criminal charges unless the other party can produce some sort of convincing evidence that he previously owned the property- and then if both parties agree then they can settle it civilly. If the guy just decided to come and get it after 15 years and can provide no proof of ownership.... sorry, but he just stole that property.

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