Unclaimed Property Held by a State

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What Is Meant By "Unclaimed Property"?

Unclaimed property refers to any funds that are held in an account that the owner has not acted upon for a long period of time. After a period of time - in many states, one year - the funds will be set aside and marked as "unclaimed property." Unclaimed property is sometimes held by an organization, such as a bank or by the state treasurer, to give its rightful owner some time to reclaim it.

Thus, “state-held unclaimed property” refers to abandoned or neglected funds that are held by the state. While unclaimed property usually refers to monies, it can also include other assets such as stocks, bonds or uncashed dividends. These assets, especially stocks, may then be sold by the company and then converted into funds.

How Can I Retrieve My Unclaimed Property from the State?

Most states appoint a special officer called the “treasurer” or the “controller” who is in charge of holding money from unclaimed properties. They are supposed to hold the money until an owner claims it, and must make reasonable efforts to contact the owner so that they can claim their property.

Retrieving unclaimed property from the state should be pretty straight-forward. Every state will usually provide all of the necessary forms and instructions for recovering unclaimed property. Typically, one will be required to provide:

Is Unclaimed Property the Same as Abandoned Property?

No. Unclaimed property usually refers to money that is left in bank accounts with no activity for over a year. In comparison, abandoned property may be any real property, such as a home, or personal property, such as a watch or jewelry.

Also, property is only technically abandoned when the owner gives up possession with no intent to recover it. If a person discovers an abandoned watch, they may be able to legally keep it for personal use without having to contact its previous owner.

On the other hand, with unclaimed property, the owner may have the intention of reclaiming the property in the near future. Thus, the state may be obligated to hold the property until the owner steps up to claim it. However, some states allow unclaimed property to escheat to the state if no person claims it after a certain amount of time. 

What Can I Do to Prevent Instances of Unclaimed Property?

The best thing to do to prevent unclaimed property issues is to use common sense. Keep detailed accounts of all money, and make sure to keep track of assets. Of course, situations may arise that can cause money from even the most detailed accounts to become unclaimed property. 

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Every year, several billions of dollars are handed over to the state because the owner could not be located or was not aware that they had unclaimed property. If you need to make a filing for unclaimed property, you may wish to contact an estate lawyer. Your lawyer can help you assemble your documents to be used in proving ownership. If a dispute arises with the state, an attorney can help represent your interests.

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Last Modified: 09-03-2014 11:16 AM PDT

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