Should you be looking for Unclaimed Property?

We’ve all heard of Unclaimed Property, but did you know that there is $12 billion in New York alone?  Of course, there is much more nationwide.  (I am in New York).

 

Here’s what happened to me:

My aunt died in December of 2010, three years ago.  Sometime afterwards in 2012, as executor, I looked for “unclaimed funds” at www.NAUPA.org.

The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) maintains a website which acts as a portal to the 50 states’ websites, accessing information on unclaimed property held by those states.

My search found a small number of dollars linked to a hospital.  After my aunt’s death, the hospital had attempted to reimburse her for an over-charge but received an “address unknown” return (of the check) from the post office.   I put off contacting the hospital, and was fortunate in doing so.

Why was I fortunate?  In contacting the NY Unclaimed Property administrator’s office to confirm the forms necessary to file a claim, I was told that there were now six items!  Had I collected the one item earlier, I’m not sure I would have looked again.

How is it possible that more items arrived?  The laws pertaining to unclaimed property provide time limits for how long any given entity (i.e. bank, employer, investment firm, insurer, etc.) can hold on to the property; the specific type of property can determine the timeframe.

In NYS, bank accounts, checks and savings would be held for five years (by the bank) before being turned over to the state as unclaimed.  Stocks, dividends, and distributions would be three years.  Some travelers’ checks are 10 years, some 15 years.  IRA’s and retirement accounts have no specific provision!

What does this have to do with you?  Have you ever known of an illness or death of a relative or friend which exposed uncertainty?  Maybe “I know she had a bank account; I just don’t know where to look”.

 

Insurance policies add another dimension.  Life policies, Disability and Long-Term Care insurance can evaporate or disappear just when they’re needed.  We will focus on this in the near future.

 

We clearly have two concerns: the first is to catalogue all of our information, and to update the information religiously.  In this way, we can prevent accounts, policies, etc. from being lost or forgotten.  Second, we know that some items such as a hospital reimbursement may be unavoidable; we have to understand how unclaimed property works, and how we can retrieve what is ours.

 

In my case, I waited, and then assumed one item was all there was.  I’ve learned a lesson: for those family members no longer with us, the correct approach is to re-check the unclaimed property administrator at least annually for over 15 years! And for family members still with us?  Annually and forever!

About L N Himel

Site creator and author has well over 30 years experience in the world of Finance at both the institutional and personal levels. As is often true, his successes, but also the pain of the author's mistakes, have resulted in insights that you, the reader, might find helpful in your efforts to avoid pitfalls and poor results. Associated with Himel Financial Services, at http://www.himelfinancial.com/#intro
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