Angelina Jolie, Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and Bioethicist Ezekiel Emanuel have money coming to them. Not how you may think though. These famous individuals all have unclaimed property held by their home state Treasury Department.
At a time when states are criticizing insurance companies for not doing enough to find beneficiaries for unclaimed life-insurance policies, it appears the states are not always doing a terrific job of uniting funds with their owners, either. Somehow, over the course of several years, it has been too difficult for the state of California to locate Ms Jolie, despite the fact how famous she is.
That does not provide much hope for the thousands of other people with common names like John Smith or Frank Robinson, who have unclaimed property held by the states where they lived at one time or another.
Insurers and other companies that fail to find the owners of dormant accounts or un-cashed paychecks eventually turn those funds over to the state with the last known address for the person, usually after two to five years. But unclaimed-property laws vary from state to state, as does their success rates in reuniting owners with their money.
So are states any better than companies at reuniting people with their lost property? The answer is a resounding; “NO!”
However, the major difference between companies and states is the ability for consumers to find their lost accounts, says Brendan Bridgeland, of the non-profit group Center for Insurance Research. Mr Bridgeland goes on to suggest that it is easier to locate money through searchable websites once it is turned over to the state. Missing-Money.com, a centralized website, allows consumers to run searches across many states.
By the time unclaimed property finds its way to the state level, the original holder- be it a bank or utility company- has often tried to find the owners and has struck out. States are not eager to spend tax dollars hunting down individuals and tend to rely on mass outreach tactics such as state-fair booths or staged media events to raise awareness of their online claims sites.
States such as New York, California, Illinois and Colorado have special events to inform residents of the possibility of state held cash. So check your state or other websites; you never know you might have several hundred dollars waiting on you!
Lynn Cowan – WSJ.com