It is not so hard to lose track of a bank account, or misplace and never cash a check or money order, or lose the key and never visit a safe deposit box. If a financial institution loses track of a depositor, the financial institution does not get to keep the money. It must pay it over to the State so it can be returned to the rightful owner.
California's unclaimed property laws require financial institutions, corporations, businesses, and insurance companies to report and transfer assets to the State Controller's Office when there is no activity on an account for three years. The State does not pay interest on the money, but there is also no time limit to claim the money.
It is easy to check to see if you have unclaimed property owed to you. It is all online at the California State Controller's website: www.sco.ca.gov/upd_msg.html or search for "California Unclaimed Property." For an individual, type in your name and city and hit the "search" button. You never know what you may find!
If the State is holding money owed to you, you may be able to claim it electronically with minimal effort. You will receive the money in as little as two weeks. Some unclaimed property such as cashier's checks, money orders, royalties, and safe deposit box contents will require additional proof of ownership and cannot be claimed online.
When someone has passed away, there may be unclaimed property owing to the beneficiaries of the decedent's estate. A certified copy of the Death Certificate will be required in addition to other documents, depending on whether there is a Probate, a Trust or small estate without a Probate. Information about the required documents is available on the Unclaimed Property website.
Unclaimed property is the truest form of "found money." Maybe you will find money owed to you.
Planning Ahead Column:
By Lisa Alexander, Esq.
Jakle & Alexander, LLP,
1250 Sixth Street, Suite 300, Santa Monica, CA 90401
Main Line: 310-395-6555