Friday, March 25, 2011

Unclaimed Property

“Well, you know, I was a human being before I became a businessman.”
- George Soros
The Consumerist recommends Unclaimed.org, a free non-profit site that's a convenient portal for searching for unclaimed property state by state. You pick a state and unclaimed.org opens the official state website for unclaimed property searches.

Here's some info from Unclaimed.org's Q&A page:

What is unclaimed property?"Unclaimed property (sometimes referred to as abandoned) refers to accounts in financial institutions and companies that have had no activity generated or contact with the owner for one year or a longer period. Common forms of unclaimed property include savings or checking accounts, stocks, uncashed dividends or payroll checks, refunds, traveler's checks, trust distributions, unredeemed money orders or gift certificates (in some states), insurance payments or refunds and life insurance policies, annuities, certificates of deposit, customer overpayments, utility security deposits, mineral royalty payments, and contents of safe deposit boxes."

What happens to accounts that have no activity?"Companies are required by law to send funds from lost accounts to the state of the owner's last known address. "
"Most states hold lost funds until you are found, returning them to you at no cost or for a nominal handling fee upon filing a claim form and verification of your identity. Since it is impossible to store and maintain all of the contents that are turned over from safe deposit boxes, most states hold periodic auctions and hold the funds obtained from the sale of the items for the owner. Some states also sell stocks and bonds and return the proceeds to the owner in the same manner."

There are "Finder" companines that will charge you to search or notify you of money found in exchange for a finder's fee. But they don't have any more information than is available free to the public, so why pay them when you can find it yourself?

Bottom Line

How do I keep my property from becoming lost in the future?"Property becomes lost due to a company having no communication with the owner. You should contact institutions that hold your money or property every year and especially when there is an address change or change in marital status. For security reasons, most financial institutions do not forward mail. Keep accurate financial records and record all insurance policies, bank account numbers with bank names and addresses, types of accounts, stock certificates, and rent and utility deposits."
  • Cash all checks for dividends, wages, and insurance settlements without delay.
  • Respond to requests for confirmation of account balances and stockholder proxies.
  • If you have a safe deposit box, record its number, bank name and address, and give the extra key to a trusted person.
  • Finally, prepare and file a will detailing the disposition of your assets.

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