1997 Regular Session
To: Public Buildings, Grounds and Lands
By: Representatives King, Davis (102nd)
House Bill 1031
(As Sent to Governor)
AN ACT TO CREATE THE MUSEUM UNCLAIMED PROPERTY ACT; TO DEFINE CERTAIN TERMS; TO PRESCRIBE THE DUTIES OF A MUSEUM WHEN PROPERTY IS LOANED TO THE MUSEUM; TO PRESCRIBE THE DUTIES OF A LENDER WHO LOANS PROPERTY TO A MUSEUM; TO PRESCRIBE THE ACTIONS A MUSEUM MUST TAKE IN ORDER TO TERMINATE A LOAN FOR UNCLAIMED PROPERTY IN THE POSSESSION OF THE MUSEUM; TO PRESCRIBE THE CIRCUMSTANCES UNDER WHICH A MUSEUM ACQUIRES TITLE TO UNCLAIMED PROPERTY IN THE POSSESSION OF THE MUSEUM; TO PROVIDE THAT PROPERTY ON LOAN TO A MUSEUM SHALL NOT ESCHEAT TO THE STATE UNDER ANY STATE ESCHEAT LAW; TO PROVIDE THAT A MUSEUM SHALL HAVE A LIEN FOR EXPENSES INCURRED FOR REASONABLE CARE OF LOANED PROPERTY THAT IS UNCLAIMED AFTER THE EXPIRATION DATE OF THE LOAN; TO PROVIDE THAT A MUSEUM MAY APPLY CONSERVATION MEASURES TO PROPERTY ON LOAN TO THE MUSEUM; TO PROVIDE THAT THE MUSEUM MAY RECOUP FROM THE LENDER OR CLAIMANT THE DOCUMENTED COSTS INCURRED BY THE MUSEUM FOR THE CONSERVATION WORK; AND FOR RELATED PURPOSES.
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI:
SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the "Museum Unclaimed Property Act."
SECTION 2. The following words and phrases shall have the meanings ascribed herein, unless the context clearly requires otherwise:
(a) "Lender" means an individual, corporation, partnership, trust, estate, or similar organization, whose name appears on the records of the museum as the entity legally entitled to control property on loan to the museum.
(b) "Loan," "on loan," or "loaned," means property in the possession of the museum accompanied by evidence that the lender intended to retain title to the property and to return to take physical possession of the property in the future.
(c) "Museum" means a public or private nonprofit agency or institution located in this state and organized on a permanent basis for essentially educational or aesthetic purposes, which utilizes a professional staff, owns or utilizes tangible objects, cares for them, and exhibits them to the public on a regular basis.
(d) "Museum records" means documents created and/or held by the museum in its regular course of business.
(e) "Property" means a tangible object, in the custody of a museum, that has intrinsic historical, artistic, scientific, or cultural value.
(f) "Restricted certified mail" means certified mail that carries on its face, in a conspicuous place where it will not be obliterated, the endorsement "deliver to addressee only" and for which the post office provides the mailer with a return receipt showing the date of delivery, the place of delivery, and the person to whom delivered.
(g) "Unclaimed property" means property meeting the following two (2) conditions: (a) property is on loan to the museum; (b) the original lender, or anyone acting legitimately on the lender's behalf, has not contacted the museum in writing for at least twenty-five (25) years from the date of the beginning of the loan, if the loan was for an indefinite or undetermined period, or for at least five (5) years after the date upon which the loan for a definite period expired.
SECTION 3. (1) For property loaned to a museum on or after the effective date of this act, the museum shall do all of the following at the time of the loan:
(a) Make and retain a written record containing at least all of the following:
(i) The lender's name, address, and telephone number;
(ii) A description of the property loaned in sufficient detail for ready identification;
(iii) The beginning date of the loan; and
(iv) The expiration date of the loan.
(b) Provide the lender with a signed receipt or loan agreement containing at a minimum the record set forth in subsection (a) above.
(c) Inform the lender of the existence of this act and provide the lender with a copy of this act upon the lender's request.
(2) Regardless of the date of a loan of property, the museum shall do the following:
(a) Update its records if a lender informs the museum of a change of address or change in ownership of property loaned, or if the lender and museum negotiate a change in the duration of the loan; and
(b) Inform the lender of the existence of this act when renewing or updating the records of an existing loan and provide the lender with a copy of this act upon the lender's request.
SECTION 4. (1) As of the date of this act, the lender, or any successor of the lender, regardless of the date of a loan of property in the custody of a museum, shall promptly notify the museum in writing:
(a) Of a change in the lender's address; and
(b) Of a change in ownership in the property on loan to the museum.
(2) It shall be the responsibility of a successor of a lender to document the passage of rights of control to the property in the custody of the museum.
(a) Unless there is evidence of bad faith or gross negligence, a museum shall not be prejudiced by reason of any failure to deal with the true owner of any loaned property.
(b) In cases of disputed ownership of loaned property, a museum shall not be held liable for its refusal to surrender loaned property in its possession except in reliance upon a court order or judgment.
SECTION 5. A museum may terminate a loan for unclaimed property in its possession as follows:
(a) The museum shall make a good faith and reasonable search for the identity and last known address of the lender from the museum records and other records reasonably available to museum staff. If the museum identifies the lender and the lender's last known address, the museum shall give actual notice to the lender that the loan is terminated pursuant to subsection (b) of this section. If the identify or the last known address of the lender remains unknown after the search, the museum shall give notice by publication pursuant to subsection (c) of this section.
(b) Actual notice of termination of a loan of unclaimed property shall take substantially the following form. The museum shall send a letter by restricted certified mail to the lender at the lender's last known address giving a notice of termination of the loan, which shall include the following information:
(i) Date of notice of termination;
(ii) Name of lender;
(iii) Description of property in sufficient detail for ready identification;
(iv) Approximate beginning date of the loan (and termination date, if applicable), if known;
(v) The name and address of the appropriate museum official to be contacted regarding the loan; and
(vi) A statement that within ninety (90) days of the date of the notice of termination, the lender is required to remove the property from the museum or contact the designated official in the museum in writing to preserve the lender's interests in the property and that failure to do so will result in the loss of all rights in the property pursuant to Section 6 of this act.
(c) If the museum is unable to identify sufficient information to send actual notice pursuant to subsection (a) of this section, or if a signed return receipt of a notice sent by restricted certified mail under subsection (b) of this section is not received by the museum within thirty (30) days after the notice is mailed, the museum shall publish the notice of termination of loan containing all the information available to the museum as provided in subsection (b)(i) through (v) of this section at least twice, sixty (60) or more days apart, in a publication of general circulation in the county in which the museum is located, and the county of the lender's last known address, if known.
SECTION 6. From and after the effective date of this act, a museum acquires title to unclaimed property, under any of the following circumstances:
(a) If a lender of property does not contact the museum in writing within ninety (90) days after the date notice was received for property for which a museum provides actual notice to a lender in accordance to Section 5 of this act and for which a signed receipt has been received.
(b) If a lender or anyone claiming a legal interest in that property does not contact the museum in writing within ninety (90) days after the date of the second publication, and notice by publication has been made pursuant to Section 5 of this act.
SECTION 7. Notwithstanding the provisions of this act, a lender and museum can bind themselves to different loan provisions by written contract.
SECTION 8. (1) Property on loan to a museum shall not escheat to the state under any state escheat law, but shall pass to the museum under the provisions of Section 6 of this act.
(2) Property interests other than those specifically addressed in this act are not affected by this act.
SECTION 9. A museum which acquires title to property under this act passes good title to another when transferring the property with the intent to pass title.
SECTION 10. From and after the effective date of this act, a museum shall have a lien for expenses incurred for reasonable care of loaned property unclaimed after the expiration date of the loan.
SECTION 11. Unless there is a written agreement between the museum and the lender to the contrary, a museum may apply conservation measures to property on loan to the museum without the lender's or claimant's permission and without formal notice if action is required to protect the property on loan. If the property is subsequently claimed pursuant to the provisions of this act, the museum may recoup from the lender or claimant the documented costs incurred by the museum in undertaking the conservation work.
SECTION 12. This act shall take effect and be in force from and after its passage.