The story goes something like this. A man’s father finds a COD slip from April of 1995 that one of his grandparents opened as custodian for him as a minor. The COD states the maturity date was October of 1998, and notes the renewal policy as “automatically renewable: new rate will be determined on maturity date.”
When he went into the bank to see what the status of the CD was, they said they had no record of it. They destroy their records after seven years. The bank told him they had likely tried to contact him or his grandparent at some point and that he should check his grandparent’s estate or state treasury department sites for lost money.
His grandfather died 15 years ago and he has no memory of seeing correspondence about the CD or even knew it existed. The paper he had marked COD didn’t say anything about being paid on death or anything about the account expiring.
The bottom line? The bank told him there was nothing they could do. The slip, even though it had dates, his social security number, the amount, the rates, interest payment annually added to the principal, and was signed by an officer the bank, was viewed only as a receipt. Without them having a record of the CD under his social security number, he was told they couldn’t determine if he had already cashed it out, or if it ever existed.
There’s a big lesson here. Communicate, communicate, communicate. Who knows why the grandparent never told him about the CD they had for him. If they didn’t want to tell him, then leave a paper trail. Such information should be in a will, letters to loved ones, or anything but kept secret. He may never see the money they intended to enhance his life.
What are your rights in a situation and what can you do?
“Banks must turn over dormant accounts to the state Escheatment Department after a period of time, which varies by state. If you find evidence of an old account you can contact the Escheatment Department (Department of Unclaimed Property) and search for assets which were turned over to the state,” says Ira Smilovitz, an enrolled agent.
He advises searching in every state where you lived, and the person who opened the account lived and where the account was located.
Go to the website for unclaimed property for each state. The sites have search engines. You also want to check out the website of the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, www.missingmoney.com.
“People should know that it may take months or longer for these state agencies to log the money into their system,” cautions Michael Zwick, an attorney and president of Assets International, which has recovered more than $60 million for individuals and small companies.
In some states, you can generate a claim form, which has all the instructions on it, from the website. In others, you have to fill out a form to have a claim form mailed to you. “In many cases, especially if the claim is worth at least a few thousand dollars, the state may well require you to jump through a number of hoops, especially if the account owner is dead. This where the assistance of a professional comes in handy,” says Zwick.
Once you submit a complete form, most states take anywhere from a few weeks to a year to pay a claim. “The two big factors are how big the claim is – the bigger it is, the more approvals it will require – and the state. Some states are woefully understaffed,” says Zwick.
Be clear what the state requires. “Each time you send something for your claim, there will be at least a few weeks before you hear anything from the state. If you send your claim piecemeal, each portion will require weeks or months of waiting,” says Zwick.
Smilovitz believes it’s a good idea to do unclaimed property searches every few years, even if you don’t expect to find anything. “We just located assets belonging to my wife’s aunt who died in 1990. Her estate had been settled and closed in 1992.”