When financial assets are left unused after a prolonged duration, or if the owner of the assets is unknown, they are called unclaimed funds or unclaimed property. Unclaimed property can include:
- Payroll checks,
- Customer overpayments,
- Savings or checking accounts,
- The contents of safe deposit boxes,
- Traveler’s checks,
- Trust distributions,
- Money orders or gift certificates (in some states),
- Insurance payments or refunds,
- Life insurance policies and annuities,
- Certificates of deposit,
- Security deposits for utilities, and
- Stocks or uncashed dividends.
All U.S. states have property laws for unclaimed assets, also known as escheat laws. Businesses must forward unclaimed property to the state according to the state’s timetable and laws.
Acting as the temporary caretaker of the property, the state then attempts to trace the real owner. This provides a centralized contact point for potential owners to make their claims, and helps to free businesses from any future liability from claims by the asset holder. If a company fails to report unclaimed funds, it could face penalties, depending on the state laws.
The National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, the association of state unclaimed property programs, maintains a website with links to unclaimed funds departments in every state as well as reporting resources for business owners.
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