Unclaimed Property Searches
An opportunity to reclaim assets and build client relations
Donna Ryan, Tax Principal
For a variety of reasons, we sometimes lose track of things. Life can distract us and assets can be left behind in a change of address, with advancing age or forgetfulness, carelessness, indifference, or poor recordkeeping. Not infrequently, bank accounts, refunds, security deposits, uncashed checks, stock certificates issued in a stock split or merger, or the like simply don’t reach us in the usual way and may slip our minds.
The good news is that states have statutes that govern unclaimed or abandoned property which prevent the item from reverting back to the entity holding the asset. Holders of lost assets must generally turn the item over to a state. States then make the information publicly available through websites and/or newspaper advertisements and will issue refunds when a valid claim is made.
How much have we lost? According to the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA), there were 2.5 million claims for unclaimed property across the United States totaling $2.25 billion dollars of returned property in 2011. The State of Massachusetts currently oversees over $2.4 billion in unclaimed items and estimates that 1 out of every 10 people have unclaimed property within the State. The State of Maine, as of June 30, 2014, oversees $200.6 million in unclaimed property and reports that the average claim amount totals $615. In Maine in the last fiscal year, the largest claim was a staggering $266,706.
At Baker Newman Noyes, we do a fair amount of tax work related to estates. We often assist personal representatives in searching for unclaimed property in the name of the decedent so claims can be made during active probate administration. If a family learns of unclaimed property after the closure of probate, a family is not generally entitled to information about an asset without proper legal authority in the form of an active executor. Therefore, it becomes difficult to know whether it is worth the cost and hassle of reopening probate administration without knowing whether the unclaimed item is a $42 utility refund or a $42,000 certificate of deposit.
We also try to alert our clients to the unclaimed property rules through newsletter articles and other means. Searches and successful claims build good client relations. We’re happy when clients and friends get checks for lost funds!
As a help to you, both personally and as our partners in client service, below are links to local state unclaimed property databases. Generally, only the individual’s name is needed to conduct a search. Further, making a claim can usually be done directly from the website. Happy searching!
For a discussion of unclaimed property with respect to business activity, please see that resource here.
Disclaimer of Liability: This publication is intended to provide general information to our clients and friends. It does not constitute accounting, tax, or legal advice; nor is it intended to convey a thorough treatment of the subject matter.