The most financially devasting story I’ve heard was on NPR was about a man who bought Amazon stock in the late ‘90s which would have been worth millions of dollars today. Since he didn’t monitor his brokerage accounts, the company thought he died and escheated his property to the state. That means, they sold his stock and the money went to the government to hold until he would claim his property. That’s why you need to know what is escheatment and how you might have money owed to you.
Escheatment is when unclaimed assets are turned over to the state. For most people, it’s very rare to have unclaimed money. This is most common when a business owes your money and can’t track you down or if a relative passes away and their property is passed on to you. Escheatment also happens if your accounts go inactive for a long time. Today, we’ll find out if you have been escheated.
Obviously, no one likes it when money or property is taken away from them. That’s why robbery is a crime. Then again, there’s a grey area. What if someone was at an ATM, they just pulled out $100 and had a heart attack then died. Legally, that money is surrendered to the state for you or your next of kin to claim. Realistically, someone would probably take that $100.
An awful example, but you should know where your money goes when it is escheated to the state.
What is the escheat process?
All banks, brokerages and any of the financial institutions are government regulated. Any property is considered abandoned if unclaimed after 5 years (depends on state). When your money is deemed as abandoned, it is surrendered to the state for you to claim.
The financial institution is SUPPOSED to make an active attempt to tell you that your money will be abandoned. But let’s just say, it’s doesn’t really matter to them. It’s also not illegal if they don’t tell you. They won’t be paying any fees and no one is going to jail.
After your missing money or unclaimed property is surrendered to the state, it officially becomes a state-owned asset. If your unclaimed asset is not money, it is sold and converted to money. When the rightful owner goes to claim their property (example: house or stocks), the owner is given the cash value of what the government was able to sell the asset at the time it was taken.
I don’t understand. Give me an Example of escheat:
- You worked for a company that went bankrupt.
- They still owe you your last paycheck.
- After the company went bankrupt, you moved to a new state for a new job.
- The company tried to send you that check but they don’t know your new address
- After 5 years, that check is surrendered to the state
- The state uses that money until you claim it.
Can I Have Another Example of the escheatment process? Absolutely:
- You have a Wells Fargo Savings Account
- It was your first bank account as a student and have moved on to a Schwab Bank account because it’s much better
- You forgot you still had $20 in your Wells Fargo Account
- After 5 years on inactivity, Wells Fargo tries to contact you
- You don’t reply. It’s been too long and you don’t want to talk to you ex…bank
- Wells Fargo surrenders that money to the state
- The state uses that money as state funds until you claim it.
- The same thing goes for Wells Fargo unclaimed property in regards to homes. Escheatment also applies to stocks. Forgetting to check on your stocks can be a bad thing!
What about escheatment laws for apartments and storage units?
Escheatment For Apartment Rentals: If you leave something of value in an apartment the landlord is required to contact you and you can just relinquish ownership. This is pretty common especially for tenants that stop paying rent and abandon all their belongings at an apartment. Your landlord is allowed to auction the belongings in order to recoup the money owed in rent.
If the money collected at auction is greater than the amount owed to the landlord, that money is legally required to be sent to the tenant. In the event that the tenant cannot be reached, the money must be turned over to the state as unclaimed property.
Escheatment For Storage Units: As for storage units, it’s the same deal as apartments. If you stop paying your storage unit fees and abandon your belongings, your property becomes unclaimed property. The storage company can auction off the unit to get the money back you owe them. Any amount collected from the auction exceeding the amount owed to the storage company will need to be sent to the rightful owner otherwise it is surrendered to the state as unclaimed money.
If you’ve seen the show Storage Wars, that’s what a storage auction looks like. All of the storage units for auction are because people stopped paying for the unit.
Let’s say you have a SUPER valuable storage locker that sells in an auction for $5,000. That happens to be an amount more than the $1,000 you owe in back due storage rental fees. According to government escheatment laws, that’s still your money even if it is unclaimed. In this scenario, you should have $4,000 that was escheated to the state.
Why didn’t anyone tell me I have been escheated?
I know, right? I don’t know who would be happy not being notified that they were escheated. I’m with you there. But let’s think about it. Even though the government takes hold of your assets, it costs time and money to track you down. There isn’t any incentive for them to track you down. They WILL tell you if you have any escheated property very easily though. You just have to check.
In fact, the government is more incentivized to keep the money without telling you. That’s because your money is used as state funds until it is claimed.
If you want to get angry about the worst escheatment in history, I highly recommend you list to this NPR podcast. This guy bought Amazon stock in the ‘90s and should have been a millionaire. He is not because he was escheated.
Why does money owed to me get escheated to the state?
Inactivity and death. Let’s say you have a bank account with no activity for 5 years. By no activity, you’re not making any purchases and you’re not logging in to the account online. The bank can actually close your account and escheat your money to the government for them to give back to you.
To claim your cash is not that hard. Your first step is to search if you have any unclaimed funds with the division of unclaimed property. Then you have to make sure that unclaimed funds actually belongs to you, because…you know…that’s stealing if that escheated property belongs to someone else.
How do I stop being escheated?
You can’t. It happens to people and in some situations it’s just hard to find people. Although it should be significantly easier now that everyone has an online presence. Tracking down people has never been easier.
Is this missing money legit?
Well, yeah. But the missing money is only legit if it’s you that is owed the money. Your name is probably not as unique as you think it is, so there may be unclaimed funds that are meant for someone else. That’s why the department of unclaimed money needs to make sure that unclaimed property report legitimately belongs to you.
Where is your escheated missing money?
It’s kind of like a nationwide “lost and found.” Your escheated funds are being held by the government and you just need to check if you have unclaimed property. You can check if you have any unclaimed property here.
Alternatively, you can also check with Credit Karma. Both sites allow you to check for unclaimed money for free, but with Credit Karma you’ll need to sign up.
How do I claim escheated property?
To claim escheated property, you need to can start by searching if any money is owed to you (and not other people with the same name). The instructions slightly vary from state to state, but it’s basically confirming a lot of personal information with the state. This is just so the state knows this missing money is legitimately yours.
How do I know if this escheated money is owed to me?
To verify that the escheated government missing money belongs to you, you will need to make sure your full name matches, and the reported address was a previous place you lived. As you can see from this example, there are a lot of people named “Rick Sanchez.”
If you’re a fan of the popular cartoon “Rick and Morty,” you’ll know Rick Sanchez is the main character. According to the state of Nevada, Metlife Inc owes him a lot of money.
Escheatment Laws by State
Each state in the United States of America has different laws when your money/property is escheated to the state. Your unclaimed property and missing money will depend on where that asset originated. The table below shows will display each state unclaimed property law.
|Alabama||3 years*||1 year||1 year|
|Alaska||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Arizona||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Arkansas||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|California||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Colorado||5 years||5 years*||1 year|
|Connecticut||3 years||3 years*||1 year|
|Delaware||5 years||5 years||5 years|
|District of Columbia||3 years*||3 years||1 year|
|Florida||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Georgia||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Hawaii||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Idaho||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Illinois||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Indiana||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Iowa||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Kansas||5 years||2 years||1 year|
|Kentucky||3 years||3 years||3 years|
|Louisiana||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Maine||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Maryland||3 years||3 years||3 years|
|Massachusetts||3 years||3 years||3 years|
|Michigan||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Minnesota||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Mississippi||5 years||5 years||Not specified|
|Missouri||5 years||5 years||Not specified|
|Montana||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Nebraska||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Nevada||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|New Hampshire||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|New Jersey||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|New Mexico||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|New York||3 years||3 years||3 years*|
|North Carolina||5 years||7 years/5 years*||1 year|
|North Dakota||5 years||2 years*||2 years|
|Ohio||5 years||5 years||3 years|
|Oklahoma||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Oregon||3 years||3 years||3 years|
|Pennsylvania||3 years||3 years||2 years|
|Rhode Island||3 years*||3 years||1 year|
|South Carolina||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|South Dakota||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Tennessee||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Texas||5 years||3 years||1 year|
|Utah||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Vermont||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|Virginia||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Washington||3 years||3 years||1 year|
|West Virginia||5 years*||5 years||1 year|
|Wisconsin||5 years||5 years||1 year|
|Wyoming||5 years||5 years||1 year|
*More rules apply to your unclaimed property report
You might have money owed to you from many years ago. It’s worth checking, it’s free to check and only takes a minute. While you’re at it, you can stop making these common credit card mistakes and a few credit tips you should know. There’s also great financial resources here to help you save money.
Do your friends and family a favor by sharing this post. Don’t let them get escheated!