Posted by Tyler A. Dorso
Many people do not know about the billions in property that has been left unclaimed over the years. When you leave assets in an account for a year or longer and do not interact with the institution that is holding the assets, the assets become unclaimed property or also known as being escheated. Unclaimed property can be a variety of things from stocks, checking accounts or uncashed payroll checks to items left in a safe deposit box or annuities and life insurance policies left in your name. State governments, in the interest of the people, have statutes in place to prevent the items left unclaimed from going to the company holding the items. These items are turned over to an official in the state who tries to get in contact with the owners of the property. Items from a safe deposit boxes are held for a period of time and the sold to free up space for other items. The proceeds from the disposition of these items are held to be returned to the owners. Unclaimed property is held in perpetuity, meaning that property that is left unclaimed is held in the owner’s name forever, even after death. After the death of the owner, the property can be claimed by the heirs.
States periodically update their records to show who has property left unclaimed. States allow you to search their records for free, to see if there are any unclaimed items in your name. Some states, like Delaware, only update their information annually and others have a database which updates more frequently. If you find that you have property being held in a particular state, complete a request to receive a claim form for your property. Depending on the type of property being claimed and who is trying claim the property, certain items will need to be provided to show ownership.
How can you prevent your property from becoming escheated? For checking and savings accounts completing one transaction per year will make keep your account active. If this is an account that you do not regularly maintain, such as a checking or savings account, you should contact the company you have the relationship with. This should especially be done when there is a change in address or marital status because of security reasons financial institutions do not forward mail. Companies will send letters to account holders when the account has no activity for a year, asking the holder to respond and keep the account active. If you are to receive this letter make sure you either respond back in time or close the account to prevent it from being turned over to the state.
Pennsylvania updates their database frequently. Type in your last name and a listing of property owned with your last name will be compiled. Look for your first name to find property that is left in your name. If you have unclaimed property, fill out the request claim form and return the form when you are finished to the state treasury office.
Delaware updates their database annually. The list is made available in the Delaware newspapers on October 31st and is made available online as well. For the online version, enter all applicable information to search the database for property in your name. If there is property listed complete a request form and return it to the Bureau of Unclaimed Property to begin the process. Subsequent to that, if you are deemed to be the owner of the property, you will receive a claim form to be returned with other information to complete the claim process. If the property is not being held in your name you will receive a letter advising you of this.
For more state databases please visit National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrations.