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What is Unclaimed Property?

Unclaimed property happens when a company’s attempt to send money fails because the person doesn’t collect it.

Understanding Escheated Funds

In the US, financial institutions must report unclaimed funds to their relevant State. This is often due to inactivity on an asset or an uncashed cheque. The aim is to prevent funds from being indefinitely ‘limbo’ without an identifiable owner.

Handling Stocks and Shares

The State typically sells unclaimed stocks and shares, which are also known as securities. These funds then become state funds. However, if there’s a valid claim for the property, the State usually offers cash equal to the asset’s value at escheatment. Alternatively, they might arrange a transfer of ownership if the investment still exists.

Why States Sell Escheated Shares and Stocks

States often sell these assets to protect the share owner and to lock in the value at the point of escheatment. Share values can fluctuate, and selling them reduces the risk of future decreases or company issues.

Escheated Assets in Estates

Escheated assets often appear in estates, particularly when the owner has passed away. Shares become inactive as dividend cheques go uncashed or accounts get frozen or closed. The escheatment process, particularly for US shares, is increasingly common. This is often due to lengthy processes like obtaining federal tax clearance before administering the assets. Even if death is notified, some transfer agents still proceed with escheatment.

Timeframe for Claiming Escheated Assets

Claiming back escheated assets varies by State, each with different requirements. In cases involving UK-based deceased, most unclaimed assets are held by the Delaware Office of Unclaimed Property. Recent years have seen changes in their claim processes, leading to a more bespoke list of requirements. The process often involves multiple stages of paperwork, making it slow. Such claims usually take many months to finalise.

Our Solicitors’ Role in Assisting with Unclaimed Property and Escheated Shares

Our international solicitors are experienced in identifying unclaimed property and submitting claims for escheated assets. We provide assistance with US State Department claims. We aim to offer a fixed fee at the outset. Sometimes, if the estate’s extent is unknown or requirements are unclear, we start with a fixed investigation fee. We agree on the full fee and requirements with you after the initial investigation.

Frequently Asked Questions

There is no need to use a company to claim your entitlement to funds which have been escheated. If you contact the State holding the property, they will notify you of their requirements.

Usually, companies who seek to find those who have missing US property funds work under agreements whereby they keep a percentage of the asset which they assist you with. We frequently find that this percentage fee is out of proportion with the asset value and the work involved.

Conversely, if you are attending to an estate with escheated assets, and you are not based in the US, meeting the requirements of the relevant State can at times be a challenge. You may be required to provide affidavits of law as part of the claim. We always try to provide a fixed fee quote for such work and this is based more on the expected work involved rather than the asset itself.

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