What is it?

Many visitors wonder “What is unclaimed property?”  This page seeks to answer that question and provide a brief overview of the entire unclaimed property process.

Escheatment is a common law doctrine that operates to ensure that property is not left in limbo and ownerless.  The escheatment process dates back to 12th Century England.

In the ordinary course of everyday business, people and businesses lose property, usually cash represented by lost checks.   When a change in address occurs, if all applicable vendors are not provided with the new address, unclaimed property results.  Sometimes, the recipients of checks or refunds accidentally discard or shred them providing no current recourse to obtain the money.  When people die and businesses go bankrupt, the resulting assets do not always get passed to the rightful heirs or business owners/investors.  If they are unaware of a bank account, stock investment or safe deposit box, these are reverted to the state treasurer for safekeeping.  Another way unclaimed property is created is when clerical errors at businesses accidentally change the addresses of customers.  This results in returned or undeliverable mail.

Generally, companies of all sizes are required to file unclaimed property reports with their home state annually and, in some jurisdictions, to make a good-faith effort to find the owners of their dormant accounts.  Companies write a check for the total of the unclaimed and/or abandoned payroll checks and submit it to the state with these annual reports.  Under a similar process, banks may remit the contents of safe deposit boxes where the owners can not be located.

After the money is collected and safeguarded by these agencies or governments, it is the responsibility of the owner to seek and search out the property.  Usually, the process of retrieving this property involves filling out the appropriate claim forms and submitting proof that you are the rightful owner of the claim.

Some examples of unclaimed property types are:

  • Abandoned bank accounts
  • Uncashed checks
  • Forgotten safe deposit boxes
  • Unclaimed baggage
  • Pension funds of ex-employees
  • Lost payroll checks
  • Unknown life insurance proceeds
  • Ignored Savings bonds
  • Matured Certificates of Deposit
  • Uncashed dividends
  • Neglected shares of stock
  • Deserted storage lockers
  • Utility refunds
  • Hospital bill credits and overpayments
  • Restitution
  • Child support payments
  • Unredeemed gift cards/certificates
  • Overlooked retirement accounts
  • Dormant brokerage accounts
  • Royalties
  • Escrow account balances