California’s Liability for Unclaimed Property Potentially Exceeds $7 Billion

03-03-2015
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Tensions have been mounting with the current policy on claiming lost property that has been transferred for safekeeping with California’s controller office. Individuals seeking to claim forgotten personal assets or assets left behind from a deceased loved one are complaining that the state has been making little to no effort in processing their claims, or even notifying eligible individuals of property they can collect. After taking office in January, state controller, Betty Yee, has promised to step up her office’s efforts in reconnecting lost property with the proper owners.

According to California state law, banks, insurance companies, financial firms, businesses, and local government entities must try to get in contact with unclaimed property owners in regards to claiming their property. If the individuals cannot be reached after a certain length of time (usually about 3 years), the property is turned over to the city controller’s office, where all but $50,000 worth of unclaimed assets are transferred to the state’s general fund budget. Unclaimed bank accounts, insurance policies, utility refunds, stocks, safety deposit box contents, and other financial holdings are the fifth largest revenue source for the state of California’s general fund budget, providing $400 million in revenue each year. A recent analyst’s report found that 28.4 million unclaimed assets from as far back as the 1950s are still waiting to be claimed, with an estimated worth of $7.2 billion.

“Frankly, our job is really to focus on doing right by the consumers,” says Yee, who has been making agreements with financial entities, such as Charles Schwab & Co. to allow the state access to information on lost or abandoned accounts belonging to California residents. By law, the state is required to pay any valid claims for lost property that has been turned over to the controller’s office for safekeeping. Because some assets are untraceable due to death or the owner’s moving out of state, the California state controller’s office has set up a page on their website where California residents can check to see if they are entitled to any unclaimed property. If you suspect you may have any unclaimed property, please visit https://ucpi.sco.ca.gov/UCP/Default.aspx to check.

If you need assistance in claiming lost or abandoned personal property or property that has been left by a deceased family member, the lawyers of Hodes Milman Liebeck can provide you with the assistance you need. Contact us today online at hmlm.com or call 866-730-1976 for a complimentary case evaluation.

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